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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
BYU's #3 Kyle Van Noy defends Notre Dame's #7 TJ Jones as BYU and Notre Dame play Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 in South Bend.South Bend.

PROVO — BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy's announcement Monday that he is returning for his senior year certainly has brightened the Cougars' prospects for the 2013 season.

BYU faces an arduous schedule next fall, including games against Virginia, Texas, Utah, Utah State, Georgia Tech, Houston, Boise State, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee, Notre Dame and Hawaii.

Van Noy, a junior who anchored a team that ranked third in the nation in total defense in 2012, announced Monday that he will come back to the Cougars rather than declare himself eligible for the National Football League draft.

"I've decided to stay and complete my senior season at BYU," Van Noy said in a release Monday. "I plan to finish what I started and feel like I've still got some unfinished business. I'm looking forward to being on the field this next season with my Cougar teammates."

Most observers expected the 6-foot-3, 235-pound native of Reno, Nev., to skip his senior season, especially after his stellar performance in the Poinsettia Bowl. Van Noy scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns on a sack and fumble recovery in the end zone, followed by a pick-six, to lead the Cougars to a 23-6 win over San Diego State.

Van Noy recorded eight tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception, and a blocked punt against the Aztecs.

Following the game, inside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga marveled at Van Noy's heroics.

"He's a playmaker. He's an athlete. He's intelligent," Poppinga said. "That's what allowed him to make those plays. It was phenomenal. I hope we get him back, but I don't think it's going to happen, personally. It was a great performance by him. And if it's his last one as a Cougar, that's the way he'd want to go out. He's going to be missed if he decides to leave. If he does, I don't blame him."

Of the two TDs, Poppinga said, "I was telling him (before the game), 'Man, you've gotten into the end zone your freshman year, your sophomore year and it hasn't happened this year. Then he does it twice. He has four touchdowns in his career.

"He's an impressive player. The one thing people don't know is how much he's matured, not just as a football player, but as a person. It's fun to see him play like that. If that was his last game, it's a good way to go out."

Going into the bowl game, Van Noy had sent in paperwork to the NFL for an evaluation of what round he might be selected. Poppinga said he had had conversations with Van Noy about his options. Poppinga added that he was impressed with the way Van Noy had been focusing on academics during the season.

"You could go to a guy that is thinking about leaving for the NFL and see how well he did in school," Poppinga said. "He could have tanked it and said, 'I'm outta here. I don't care what my grades are.' I'm up in the academic center every night, and that guy's busting his butt to make sure he's passing all of his classes and getting good grades, which tells me he's trying to have good grades so he's eligible next season. He's doing all the right things so that if he doesn't decide to leave that he's in a good situation academically to continue to play."

Van Noy, who earned second- and third-team All-America honors, recorded 13 sacks, 22 tackles-for-loss, a school-record six forced fumbles and two blocked kicks this season.

Van Noy was the only player in the country to record a stat in every major defensive category in each of the past two seasons. He is currently ranked No. 1 nationally in sacks, tied with four others. Van Noy is also tied for second in the country in forced fumbles, No. 3 in tackles-for-loss, and is tied for seventh in blocked kicks.

The Cougar defense held six opponents without an offensive touchdown this season.

BYU recently received great news on the offensive side of the ball when junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman announced he would be returning for his senior year.

Hoffman is No. 5 all-time in receiving yardage at BYU with 2,718. He is only the third player in school history to catch 100 passes in a season and just the fourth to have more than 200 career receptions.

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BYU junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy's career stats:

Tackles TFL/Yds Sack/Yds FF FR INT QBH TDs

2010 35 7.5/38 2.0/19 2 1 0 2 1

2011 68 15.0/93 7.0/54 3 1 3 10 1

2012 53 22.0/120 13.0/90 6 1 2 8 2

Totals 156 44.5/251 22.0/163 11 3 5 20 4