BYU’s Jay Hill talks about the Big 12’s new job, confidence, depth and play

There will be a lot of people watching at the New Mexico Bowl.

SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai will watch how BYU’s secondary turns into formation. The Cougars defense will be watching how Mordecai gets through his advance reads – and Jay Hill will be watching both.

BYU’s new defensive coordinator will be in the game acting more as an evaluator for the future. The underclass of men hoping to lead the Cougars to the Big 12 next fall are in the know. In many aspects, the bowl game is a glorified performance experience.

“I’m looking forward to seeing who plays with the right effort that I’m looking forward to in the future – tenacity and toughness,” Hill said. “You can watch these guys in practice, but it’s different in the game.”

Mordecai leads offense and averages 38.4 points per game, including the 77 they put up against Houston’s Big 12 on November 3. BYU is catching a break with SMU star receiver Rashi Rice, who has opted out of the bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. Rice caught 96 passes for a school record 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns – more than double the receiving production of BYU star Puka Nacua.

Even with Rice out, Mordecai poses an incredible challenge to a defense exhausted by injuries and staff changes.

BYU’s new defensive coordinator Jay Hill is meeting the players for the first time after being named to his new position earlier this month. Hill is eager to see the Cougars defense perform against SMU in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday.

“You have to do things to confuse the quarterback,” Hill said. “You can’t sit around and drop eight the whole game. To be able to play some man-to-man coverage, mix up some areas, mix up some pressures, mix up some eight points, we have to keep that guy on his toes so he can’t catch it and rip it to where he knows he has an open man.”

Build depth and confidence

Hill inherits deep trouble at BYU as the Cougars prepare to join the Big 12. The program has had little trouble fielding a capable first string of roster players, but after that, it gets dicey.

Whether it’s the time it takes to develop returning heralds or managing the impatience of players waiting their turn – Hill knows it won’t be an easy fix, not as long as the checker at the transfer gate still promises more (nothing) money and playing time elsewhere.

“The players have to believe in me, and I have to believe in them,” Hill said. “There’s a trust that goes both ways. They have to trust me, and they have to stay here knowing that this defense can get them a chance to play in the Big 12 and the NFL. That’s a big deal. If you’re a backup, take your time because this will eventually get you to the place.” who you want to be in, but I have to earn that trust from them.”

The most important things first

Hill’s top defensive priority is rebuilding BYU’s front seven with a special focus on the defensive line.

“I’m used to watching BYU defenses that have these big bad guys up front, big defensive linemen,” he said. “I think we can always recruit those guys at BYU. We have to get back to that — be brave on the front seven and be able to stop the run. We have to get better on the defensive front.”

12 major offenses

As BYU patiently awaits the release of the 2023 Big 12 football schedule, Hill knows that no matter who’s in it, the Cougars’ climb will be straight up.

So much of the Big 12 was influenced by the late Mike Leach that the focus on scoring trumped the premise of blocking them.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s something I’m looking forward to,” he said. “It’s not unlike what we were doing. We were up against great offensive coordinators. I’ve coached at this level before. I’ve been around the game. I’m looking forward to it.”

Watch and marvel

Hill still has vacancies to fill, but on Saturday at the New Mexico Bowl (5:30 p.m., ABC) his eyes will be on his buddies as he contemplates what the Cougars might look like when next September rolls around.

“It’s a matter of how they play. I always thought it was more about how you do it than what you do,” Hill said. “That’s what’s fun about this game for me is that I can watch what they do and how they do it.”

Dave McCann is a contributor to Deseret News and studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” and “After More Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also a co-host of “Y’s Guys”.

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