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Best defensive players in Mendenhall era

By Dylan Cannon, Contributor | Posted - Aug 11th, 2014 @ 11:40am

PROVO — The 2014-2015 season will mark Bronco Mendenhall’s 10th year at the helm of BYU’s football team. Two weeks ago, I looked at the best offensive performers in the Mendenhall era. As a follow-up, here are the best defensive performers from that same period.

Defensive line

Jan Jorgensen: In his four years at the Y, Jorgensen was a beast. After a solid freshman season that earned him Freshman All-American honors, Jorgensen had a tremendous sophomore campaign in which he registered 13.5 sacks. As teams game-planned for him more in the following two seasons, his numbers went down, but he still remained an active force from the defensive-end position.

Eathyn Manumaleuna: As a general rule, defensive linemen rarely get much publicity because they do not put up gaudy stats as other positions do. Such is the case with Manumaleuna. However, he was a handful for other teams during his whole (very long) career and put up good statistics. More importantly, though, he clogged up the middle and helped anchor some very good defenses.

Ezekiel Ansah: By now, everyone has heard the story of Ansah not even knowing how to put on his pads when he first tried out for the team. By his senior year, he not only knew how to get suited up, but he was absolutely dominant. Ansah was an offensive coordinator’s nightmare when he finally had his chance to shine after Manumaleuna was injured. He showed such destructive tendencies in 2012 that the Detroit Lions chose him with the fifth pick in the 2012 NFL draft.


Kyle Van Noy: Van Noy had what is arguably the best four-year career of any BYU defender. He was able to do a little of everything: he could stuff running backs, he registered high sack numbers and he could drop back into coverage. What really made Van Noy stand out was his habit of making big plays. How many other defenders have you heard of who scored a touchdown in each of their collegiate seasons?

Cameron Jensen: Nicknamed “The General,” Jensen was a tackling machine and the main man on a very good 2006 defense. Twice in his three-year career, he had over 100 tackles. He also showed a knack of causing turnovers, as he had five career interceptions and six career fumble recoveries.

Bryan Kehl: Like Van Noy, Kehl was able to do a bit of everything. He was adept at using his speed to get into opponents’ backfields and was terrific in coverage for a linebacker.

David Nixon: Nixon put up big stats for the Cougars his whole four-year career. One thing that he was particularly good at was getting to the running back behind the line of scrimmage. In all, Nixon put up a staggering 43 tackles for loss during his time in Provo.


Brian Logan: As one of the smallest Cougars ever to play, Logan stood tall. Listed at just 5-foot-6, Logan held his own against much bigger receivers and was very good at breaking up passes. In 2009 alone, Logan was credited for 14 pass breakups. He also registered five interceptions in his two-year career.

Justin Robinson: Like Logan, Robinson was undersized and overlooked by many teams in the recruiting process. But, like Logan, Robinson played huge for the Cougars. During the Y’s terrific 2006 campaign, Robinson was a lockdown corner who broke up six passes, intercepted four more and took one to the house against Utah State.


Andrew Rich: During his three-year career at the Y, Rich was the anchor of the secondary. Known as a punishing hitter, Rich forced six fumbles and recovered three more. In his terrific senior season, Rich had 110 tackles and five interceptions.

Daniel Sorensen: Similarly to Rich, Sorensen was a terrific leader in the secondary. In his career, Sorensen was credited with eight interceptions, and he showcased even better ball skills in his senior year, breaking up 12 passes. While he was a great safety, Sorensen will also go down as one of the best Cougar special-team members, as he routinely made big plays on punt defense.

What do you think about this list? Did I miss anyone?

Dylan Cannon is a regular contributor. He can be reached via twitter @DylanCannon11 or by email at

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