THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Defense took center stage for the BYU football team this year, much as it did for Cougar commit Nathan Debeikes. Offense was admittedly the focus for the Thousand Oaks High standout prior to his commitment, but after being offered as a linebacker that focus changed.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Debeikes has starred at both running back and linebacker in high school and did so again last season. His rushing numbers were a bit down from his junior season, but his defensive numbers and overall play improved.
“I’ve always focused on offense more because I liked playing offense more, but that’s definitely changed,” Debeikes said. “I’m learning to love defense and a lot of my focus this year was on becoming a better defensive player because that’s where I’ll play at BYU.”
Debeikes finished his senior season with 935 yards rushing and 101 total tackles. He plans to leave for an LDS Church mission after graduation and will return in time for the 2015 season, where he’ll likely play at strong-side linebacker. Upon his return Debeikes will look to emulate the success of current starting strong-side linebacker Spencer Hadley, who also starred on both sides of the ball while in high school.
Debeikes has watched BYU closely throughout the year with a keen eye on Hadley and what he’s been able to do.
“I don’t know (Hadley), but I’m a big fan of his and I definitely hope to play as well as he is when I get to BYU,” Debeikes said. “It was fun watching how dominant BYU’s defense was and I couldn’t be more excited to be part of such a great defensive system.”
Debeikes is a life-long BYU fan who committed immediately when BYU offered him back in May. Since that time he’s made his way to BYU camps and received visits from BYU coaches — most notably from Nick Howell and Kelly Poppinga last week.
“I can’t wait to play for Coach Poppinga and all the other great coaches at BYU,” Debeikes said. “What I saw from BYU defensively just makes me more excited. It’s a tenacious defense that plays as one unit and none of the players are selfish. It’s exactly the type of defense I want to play in and it’s because of the coaches that the defense is the way it is.”
Debeikes will make his official visit to BYU in mid-January, when he’ll be able to get to know his future teammates better while enjoying all the frills involved with an official visit.
“I’m excited for it because I really haven’t had time to meet and get to know a lot of the guys I’ll be signing with,” Debeikes said. “I love BYU and I always love going there and I’m just excited to be able to go there again on an official trip with my parents.”