In my time with the BYU Cougars I was able to be around coach Jaime Hill for 2 seasons. In those two seasons coach Hill taught me a lot about football and prepared me very well for my coverage assignments each week, even though he was not my position coach. I admired the man for his wealth of knowledge and his ability to transfer that knowledge to his players.
While it was surprising to me so see coach Bronco Mendenhall take such a drastic step, especially mid year, it may not be as much about blaming coach Hill as we think. It may be that he was just not cut out for the job as a defensive coordinator.
In 2001 I was a redshirt freshman under coach Gary Crowton. A man many BYU fans despise for not living up to expectations. In my brief time with coach Crowton (I left on a mission after 2001 and returned for one more season under Crowton in 2004) he had a great positive impact on my life. I know there are others who feel that coach Crowton did more to prepare them for the NFL than any other coach, but my feeling is that he is a better position coach and coordinator than he is a head coach. The responsibilities of the entire team were either too much, or too outside his comfort zone. So what does this have to do with Jaime Hill?
As I stated before, I felt Jaime Hill was a fantastic resources for understanding the zone coverages in the 3-4 defense. But just because a man is an expert in one area, may not qualify him for taking over the entire scheme. There were times when I would be asking Coach Hill questions, and he would ask why I was lined up in a certain position instead of aligning for better pass coverage. My response would be something like, "Well the offense is in a tight I formation so I have to be in the box for the run," or something along those lines. It was always obvious that his emphasis was more on the pass coverage than the run defense. But I wouldn't hold that against him. After all he was the secondary coach and it was his job to make sure we were sound in our pass defense. I feel like there must have been similar things going on behind closed doors, where the defense as a whole had some flaws because he may have been focused on just one aspect. For someone who knows our defense there have been times this season when you could see the lack of execution in coverages or adjustments that in the past have not been there. I get blaming the lack of experience of the players, but this makes me wonder if like coach Crowton, Coach Hill is just better suited for a position coach job.
Another thing that has changed in the BYU defense is the lack of intensity and physicality. In my eyes there has been a drop in the effort, not just the execution. Of all things, this is the one that would really irk coach Mendenhall. When he was the defensive coordinator that was the #1 focus, EFFORT. Interestingly enough, when I listen to Rocky Long (San Diego St. Aztecs defensive coordinator) talk on the radio shows down here, that is what he keeps pointing to as what will turn (has turned) SDSU's defense around.
But how do these two things warrant coach Hill being fired, instead of just changing him back to a defensive backs coach? To me the only answer is the egos of all involved. After all this is football, the one great place left to manifest our inner manhood.
Coach Mendenhall taking over? This is the obvious choice. He knows the defense better than anyone. He was the defensive coordinator who installed the defense. He has the ability to make guys play hard, because he will not accept anything less. There is no better option inside or outside the program than Coach Mendenhall. When he first made the switch he was reluctant. He didn't want to give up his baby. As you may remember there was one year of sort of "dual" coordinators and then finally he turned it over 100%. Quite frankly the defensive track record has suffered since the hand off, not just this year.
My prediction for next year? I think Coach Mendenhall hires away Micah Alba (Fresno State Bulldogs DB Coach) as BYU's new secondary coach and Coach Mendenhall continues as the defensive coordinator. Micah Alba is a very intelligent coach and someone who fits right into the Bronco Mendenhall philosophy of football.
Although I am shocked to see Coach Hill get fired, I am very excited to start watching a fast, furious, physical defense who plays with fanatical effort once again.
Here's to the future of BYU football. My confidence is restored in the season.