Kyle Van Noy has found the ball carrier and has taken him to the ground 156 times in his career. Forty-four times, it’s been behind the line of scrimmage. He’s also straight up found the ball eight times (five interceptions, three fumble recoveries) and he’s knocked it loose on another 11 occasions.
Yet, ask the BYU star linebacker for his secret to being a pigskin-magnet and he’ll say there’s nothing to reveal.
“I think I’m just a lucky person,” Van Noy said. “I just call it luck. I really don’t know how to say it. It just happens.”
Can Virginia reverse his good fortune come 3:30 p.m., Saturday? It might just be the Cavaliers’ tallest offensive task when they open their 2013 season by hosting the Cougars.
Van Noy is a reigning third-team All-American. A physical dart in BYU’s 3-4 defense, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder is loaded with first-round pick potential. Sports Illustrated gives him 150-to-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy.
If you’re a quarterback eyeing up the opposing defense pre-snap, you’d wise to spot No. 3 in navy.
“Even if I do forget where he’s at,” said Cougar signal caller Taysom Hill, “he doesn’t let me because he’ll constantly be talking to me. Another thing is I’m wearing a green jersey, so if he does come free, he can’t hit me.
“So that makes it nice.”
All signs indicate Van Noy won’t be so kind come Saturday.
The Reno, Nev., native has been at the top of UVa’s scouting report since game preparation started last week.
“The thing that makes Kyle so effective is he plays both,” said Virginia offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild. “He’ll play the run very well. He uses his hands. He’s physical. He’s strong. He’ll get into you and get off a block. He’s also good as a pass-rusher. He’s got some moves. he’s athletic. The guy’s really a playmaker on defense.
“He’s fun to watch. He’s been unbelievably productive for [BYU coach] Bronco [Mendenhall] and his defense. He’ll be one of the best defensive players we face all year.”
Virginia head coach Mike London took the praise a little higher.
“He's definitely one of the best college football players that is out there,” London said.
So how do you go about simulating a player of this ability in practice?
“We’ve got to take the best linebacker on the look team and put him at that spot,” Fairchild said.
Enter Max Valles.
The 6-5, 210-pound freshman is nowhere to be found on the Wahoos’ depth chart, yet he might be one of their most valuable assets this week.
Valles spent last season in Fork Union Military Academy’s post-graduate program. He was a two-star prospect out of New Jersey, where he played receiver, defensive end and safety for St. Joseph High School. As a senior, he made 33 tackles and seven sacks while grabbing an interception and forcing three fumbles.
Valles is still a defensive end on UVa’s roster. But this week, he’s a linebacker.
He’s Kyle Van Noy.
“Max is a tall, lanky guy who can move really well,” said Virginia left guard Luke Bowanko. “I think he beat me on Saturday when I wasn’t paying attention. He’s going to offer a great look, I think. We got him watching the tape. I think he’s kind of stepped into the role pretty well.”
But it’s one thing to act like Van Noy. It’s another to be Van Noy.
What is his secret?
It’s the stuff that runs through his helmet.
“I think it’s my IQ,” Van Noy said. “I know what other teams’ schemes are, I know what they’re doing, I know what they’re trying to accomplish and I can help other guys recognize it, see it. I see the game in a different dimension and in different ways.
“I think having a good IQ of the game and wanting to be the best is what I bring to the table. I think that’s probably the best attribute I have.”
Virginia awaits the challenge.
“You have to know where he is at all times because I'm sure they're going to feature him in a lot of things,” London said.