BYU junior LB Van Noy considers early jump to NFL

BYU junior LB Van Noy considers early jump to NFL

PROVO, Utah (AP) Kyle Van Noy's career at Brigham Young was nearly derailed before it started because of a stupid mistake.

Now there's a chance it will end a year early - after his junior season - if NFL scouts who have been checking out the playmaking linebacker convince him that jumping to the pros is a better option than another year in college.

That said, Van Noy acknowledges Saturday's game against lowly Idaho (1-8) could be his finale at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

``That's why you try to play every game like it's your last,'' Van Noy said.

Last year, Van Noy became the only FBS player to record a statistic in every major defensive category: tackle, tackle for loss, sack, interception, pass breakup, quarterback hurry, forced fumble, fumble recovery, blocked kick and touchdown. This year, with three regular-season games remaining and then a likely trip to the Poinsettia Bowl, Van Noy needs only a fumble recovery to complete the cycle again for BYU (5-4).

All this from a player who wasn't even sure he'd be back after undergoing major reconstructive shoulder surgery this offseason, a situation that left him scared.

``I didn't think I was going to be able to come back just because of how severe it was,'' Van Noy said.

He stuck with the therapy, always keeping in mind the big picture where eventually he'd be able to hit with two healthy shoulders.

``It wasn't easy. I wasn't happy. But I'm here where I am now ... playing on two good shoulders,'' he said.

Van Noy has had his share of head-turning plays for a defense whose goal is to finish the season ranked No. 1 nationally (the Cougars are fourth now).

Against Utah State (8-2), he chased down athletic quarterback Chuckie Keeton on third-and-3 and stopped him short of the first down in a hard-fought 6-3 victory against a bowl-bound Aggies team whose only other loss was by two points in Wisconsin.

``The closing speed he had on him and the range he has on the field was just incredible,'' BYU outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga said.

Van Noy leads the team with 12 1/2 tackles for loss, 7 1/2 sacks, eight quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

Poppinga, who played in the NFL in 2008 and went to Super Bowl XLIII with the Arizona Cardinals, knows what it takes to play in the pros.

``We've had our talks and there's things he needs to work on before he can take it to the next level,'' Poppinga said. ``The main thing is physicality against the run. Not that he's bad. What the NFL is looking for is play after play of dominating the guy in front of you.''

Van Noy did that at McQueen High School in Reno, Nev., and could have gone just about anywhere afterward. LSU, Oregon, Nebraska, UCLA, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Nevada and Washington all wanted him.

He chose BYU, only to see his decision fall apart the weekend before signing day in February 2009 when he was cited in his hometown for driving under the influence.

Van Noy stuck with his plans, sending in his letter of intent along with a personal apology to coach Bronco Mendenhall, asking for a shot to play for a team he thought would make him a better player and person.

He'd get that shot, but the journey hasn't been easy.

Van Noy didn't play in 2009 while he took care of his off-field issues. Then after being allowed to early-enroll in January 2010, he barely saw the field early in his freshman season.

``It was really frustrating and I didn't understand why,'' he said.

When Mendenhall finally put him in, Van Noy said he was ``humble-ized'' again, realizing he wasn't as good as he thought. ``The film doesn't lie,'' he said.

So he worked harder.

Three years later, Poppinga sees a more humble, coachable player, one who has served as a mentor to rising star Ezekiel Ansah.

``This goes for a lot of kids who come in so highly recruited,'' Poppinga said. ``They think they know it all and have been told their whole career how great they are.''

Last year, Van Noy led the team with 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He did much of his damage despite playing with a torn labrum suffered against TCU in late October with four games remaining.

``He's one of the toughest players I have ever coached,'' Mendenhall said, noting Van Noy didn't' mention the injury until after the season. ``If you don't ask him, he's not going to tell you because he loves to play and isn't going to come out of a game no matter how hurt he is.''

Mendenhall called Van Noy's transformation off the field just as remarkable.

``He is absolutely honest and trustworthy,'' said Mendenhall, whose heart-to-heart in 2010 helped the player and coach forge a relationship that Van Noy describes as ``cool.''

``He makes mistakes like the rest of us, but who he has become is something to be proud of. I have been and am lucky to work with him.''

The question is for how long.

``I get asked about it every day, so you do think about it,'' Van Noy said of jumping to the NFL.

After the season he'll discuss his options with family members and coaches.

``I also want to do what's right for the team, too,'' said Van Noy, who is convinced he made the right choice in sticking with BYU. ``Anyone can say what they want. I should have gone Pac-12, should have gone SEC, Big 12. But I'm happy where I'm at.''

He may be tempted to stay knowing next year's schedule includes a rematch with Notre Dame, one of three BYU losses this year that came by a combined seven points.

BYU defensive back Preston Hadley, one of 24 seniors who will play their final home game Saturday, believes Van Noy will return.

``I think he likes it a lot here,'' Hadley said. ``I can't see anyone who would want to cut their time short here.''

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Washington Nationals second half preview

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Washington Nationals second half preview

The second half of the 2018 MLB season gets underway tonight, and the Nats find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture right now

In order for them to get past the Braves, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Brewers, etc., a number of things will have to go right in D.C. over the next 65-ish games.

A few questions will be hanging over the franchise these next few months, so to help break down what to look for during the Nats’ second half, I enlisted some fellow NBC Sports Washington writers to help me out, roundtable-style.

Without further ado, here are some second-half predictions.


Ryan Wormeli - @RyanWarmly
Cam Ellis - @KingsleyEllis
Michaela Johnson - @mjohnson262
Tyler Byrum - @theTylerByrum

Most important player in the second half:

Ryan Wormeli: Stephen Strasburg.

Everyone knows Max Scherzer is going to dominate as the Nats’ ace, and everyone knows Bryce Harper will hit home runs. In fact, assuming health, everyone knows the team will be pretty good at most spots. Strasburg, however, is the one that can take the Nats, to quote former Maryland coach Randy Edsall, from “good to great.” If he’s elite as their number two starter, this team is making the playoffs. Book it.

Cam Ellis: Bryce Harper.

Michaela Johnson: Bryce Harper, in the sense that it’s critical he gets hot again. Hopefully, his Home Run Derby win sparks something.

Tyler Byrum: Gio Gonzalez. 

There are a couple of ways to look at this. Of course, Bryce Harper needs to be better and Stephen Strasburg has to come back fully healthy from the disabled list for them to even have a chance. Even if those two do that though, it probably will not be enough to make a climb in the division. 

Last year Gonzalez had easily the second-best season of his career. With a 15-9 record and a 2.96 ERA in 2017, Gonzalez could easily be a No. 2 pitcher on half of the teams in the major. This season his ERA is sitting at 3.72 and has only won six of the 19 games he started. More than just looking at his stats, his outings are short too, making it to the seventh inning only three times this year. Additionally, the two-time All-Star is on pace to strike out the fewest batters this season than in the past decade.

Max Scherzer will get the Nationals a win once a week, hopefully Strasburg will get it done too, but Gonzalez is the Wild Card.

Nationals X-factor:

Ryan: An X-factor is someone whose play can dramatically impact the team’s success. If they’re successful, the team wins. If they play poorly, the team suffers.

This can apply to a number of players on the Nats, but I’m going to go with Juan Soto. He’s already exceeded expectations all season long, and helped keep the team afloat. They probably wouldn’t be within shouting distance of the postseason without the young phenom.

If Soto maintains his abnormally strong play while the rest of the team gets it going, the ceiling on this team is higher than any in the National League besides maybe the Dodgers and Cubs. If not, then they can still be okay, but probably not good enough.

Cam: Stephen Strasburg.

Michaela: Daniel Murphy. Since returning from injury he’s been solid, batting .324 in July. Davey Martinez has good discretion when it comes to resting vs. playing guys coming off injury, and I foresee a strong comeback for Murphy.

Tyler: Bryce Harper.

This is Harper’s team and it always will be with him on the roster. Yes, that .214 batting average is not going to win him a pennant, but Harper is so much more to this team. The 2018 Home Run Derby champion has to bring the fire to the Nationals night-in and night-out, whether or not he is able to get hits on the board. 

Some people want to question his leadership ability (we’re not going to touch that topic), but he needs to inspire his guys in the clubhouse.

Show us the Harper that we saw at the derby, even with a poor batting average, and we’ll see a different team out on the field in the second half.

Will the Nationals make the playoffs?

Ryan: I’m actually very on the fence about this question. I’m going to say yes, but it’s like 51-49. I just am too impressed with the Braves and Phillies, and the latter especially seems keen on making an aggressive move at the trade deadline.

Cam: Yes, BUT it'll be the wild card game at Nats Park and extremely stressful.

Michaela: If I was making a call based on what we’ve seen in the first half, obviously not. But I have high expectations for the second half based on a Harper resurgence and Murph recovery, so I’m going to say yes.

Tyler: Yes. There is too much talent on this roster for them not to. With Strasburg coming back it will be more than just Scherzer dealing out there. The Philadelphia Phillies should cool down at some point too and it will be a two-headed race between the Nats and the Atlanta Braves for the division.

More likely scenario: Bryce Harper is traded at the deadline OR he signs a long term extension in D.C.

Ryan: I figure everyone will say he signs a long term extension, and I’m not going to swim against the current here. It’s highly, highly unlikely that he’s traded at the deadline, but given the national conversation surrounding his future in the nation’s capital, I thought it was at least worth asking.

Cam: Signs an extension this offseason.

Michaela: He signs an extension, based solely on this quote.

Tyler: Signs extension. There is no way the Nationals will trade the leader of the team and the guy that just won the Home Run Derby on his own field. Sure it is fun to debate but that is the last thing that this clubhouse needs at this moment. 

On Monday night he showed his power and just why he is worth the lucrative extension.

However, trading Harper would be a typical case of #DCSports.

Who leads the Nats in batting average in the second half?

Ryan: Daniel Murphy. If he was never hurt entering the season, he could very well have been the betting favorite to lead the team in average all season long. He’s far enough removed from the Disabled List at this point to feel comfortable taking a shot on his pure hitting talent.

Cam: Anthony Rendon

Michaela: Juan Soto

Tyler: Trea Turner. He is due for a turnaround and none of the pressure is on him. There might also be some extra juice after his All-Star team snubbing. 

Biggest/most important trade deadline acquisition

Ryan: Going to go out on a limb here and say the Nats in a bit of a panic move but one that’s completely defensible, do what it takes to pry JT Realmuto away from the woeful Marlins.

Cam: Another starting pitcher. It's Matt Harvey Time!

Michaela: *fingers crossed* Starting pitching.

Tyler: Manny Machado, Dodgers. This is a no-brainer. Once written off a decimated by injury, the Los Angeles Dodgers are back to being a World Series contender once again. Sitting at the top of the division, with no one in the National League pulling away, Machado will put the Dodgers back as the team to chance.

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 20, six days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the cornerbacks are up. They are roughly ranked by Pro Football Focus’ coverage metrics, although I did some juggling based on interception totals and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teamsreceivers, running backspass rushers, and quarterbacks

1. Patrick Peterson, Cardinals—The athletic Peterson has been All-Pro three times and has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his seven years in the league. He hasn’t had a big interception total since he got seven in 2012, but that is mostly because quarterbacks only throw his way about once every ten snaps he is in coverage. 

2. Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars—I could easily have ranked Ramsey over Peterson. I went with Peterson because he’s been doing it for longer and he’s only 28. Ramsey has justified his No. 5 selection in the 2016 draft. His long arms and ball skills serve him well. He has the size to defend the bigger receivers and the athleticism to be effective against shifty and speedy receivers. 

3. A.J. Bouye, Jaguars—If Alex Smith tries to throw away from Ramsey he will encounter trouble on the other side. It’s been trendy to say that Bouye is underrated for so long he’s in danger of becoming overrated. But he’s not there yet. Bouye was one of four full-time (played at least 60% of snaps) cornerbacks who did not allow a touchdown pass last year and he had by far the most plays in coverage. 

4. Malcolm Butler, Titans—If the Brady-Belichick Patriots don’t win another Super Bowl, the coach’s decision to keep Butler on the bench as Nick Foles shredded the New England secondary will be marked as the end of that era. Maybe Butler isn’t good enough to have made a difference, but it would have been interesting to see. He’s with the Titans now and he will give Smith problems in December. 

5. Marshon Lattimore, Saints—Last year’s defensive rookie of the year plays an aggressive style both in press man coverage and when tackling receivers who have caught the ball. An ankle injury sent him out of the game against the Redskins early, perhaps one of the reasons why Kirk Cousins was able to light them up for 322 yards and three touchdowns. 

Best of the rest: Desmond Trufant, Falcons; Brent Grimes, Bucs; Logan Ryan, Titans;k Jaire Alexander (rookie), Packers

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 6
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 20
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 43

The Redskins last played a game 201 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 51 days. 

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