2023 Fall Camp: Practice 2 — DC Jay Hill and Safeties Preview
PROVO, Utah – BYU football practiced for the second time of its 2023 fall camp on Wednesday afternoon.
Today, BYU reviews the new associate head coach and defensive coordinator Jay Hill, along with the safety position group.
On Dec. 7, 2022, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake announced the hiring of Jay Hill as the Cougars' new associate head coach and defensive coordinator. Hill will also be overseeing the safeties during the 2023 season.
|2023 BYU Safeties|
|25||Alfrey, Talan||R-So.||6-2||205||Auburn, WA/Auburn Mountainview HS|
|32||Burke, Ty*||Fr.||6-1||175||Syracuse, UT/Syracuse HS|
|33||Damuni, Raider*||Fr.||6-1||210||Provo, UT/Timpview HS|
|23||Ebunoha, Chika||R-Fr.||6-0||180||Tucson, AZ/Marana HS|
|1||Harper, Micah||R-So.||5-10||192||Chandler, AZ/Basha HS|
|12||Moore, Malik||R-Sr.||6-1||195||San Diego, CA/Point Loma HS|
|17||Rex, Preston||R-Fr.||6-0||191||San Clemente, CA/San Clemente HS|
|26||Slade, Ethan||R-So.||6-0||190||Orem, UT/Orem HS|
|37||Tanuvasa, Malae*||R-Fr.||6-0||180||Highland, UT/Utah|
|42||Tuipulotu, Petey||R-Fr.||6-3||195||Fort Mill, SC/Nation Ford HS|
|38||Wakley, Crew*||R-Fr.||6-0||193||Sandy, UT/Utah State|
|28||Wall, Tanner||R-So.||6-1||200||Arlington, VA/Yorktown HS|
Lost from 2022: Hayden Livingston, Matthew Criddle
Coach Preview – Jay Hill
Hill takes over a talented safety room featuring a mix of experienced players, returners looking to make an impact and newcomers competing for time on the field.
Hill came to BYU with 22 years of coaching experience, including the previous nine seasons as the head coach of the Weber State Wildcats of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Watch Head Coach Kalani Sitake introduce Coach Jay Hill in December, 2022.
Born in Lehi, Utah, Hill transformed the Wildcat program while becoming Weber State’s all-time leader in coaching wins with a record of 68-39. He led Weber State to eight-straight winning seasons, six trips to the FCS Playoffs and four Big Sky Conference titles.
Defensively, Weber State has been among the top performers in the FCS, finishing in the top 30 in total defense and scoring defense in five consecutive seasons, including a top 10 ranking in passing defense, No. 15 mark in total defense and top 20 in scoring defense the last two seasons.
Hill’s 2021 defense ranked No. 15 in total defense, allowing just 324.1 yards per game, and No. 15 in scoring defense at 20.4 points per game. The Wildcats were No. 4 in team pass efficiency defense, allowing a rate of 106.38, and ranked No. 5 in third-down conversion defense, allowing a conversion percentage of just 31.3 percent last season.
The 2021 defense even found the end zone five times, ranking No. 2 in defensive touchdowns to go along with a No. 11 ranking in total defense, allowing 283.0 yards per game. The 2021 squad was No. 3 in third-down conversion defense (27.2 percent), No. 7 in pass efficiency defense (108.23), No. 9 in passing yards allowed (172.9), No. 15 in rushing defense (110.1) and No. 19 in scoring defense (19.5).
Watch Coach Jay Hill's Mic'd Up feature from BYU's 2023 spring football.
Tyler Batty on Coach Jay Hill and the new defense (From Sirius XM Radio on Big 12 Media Day)
“[Getting a new defensive coordinator] was a big change. Coach Hill is a high energy and high expectations type of guy. It’s exactly what we needed. The biggest shift on defense has been just that, to up the ante a little bit more. He’s asking a little bit more of the defense. And in return, he’s giving a little bit back more to the guys. This fall, we’re going to see a much different defense from BYU than our fans have seen in the past few years. It will be a lot more aggressive. This year, I’m excited to get after the passer a bit more myself.”
Batty on new associate head coach/defensive coordinator Jay Hill (From ESPNU on Big 12 Media Day)
“Coach Hill is awesome. He brings a lot of experience with his previous coaching positions. He knows a lot about football and a lot about defense. It’s been awesome to learn from him and the energy he brings to the program.”
“It’s infectious. It’s spread throughout the guys. It’s new. As guys are learning a new defense, it can be tricky. I think it’s helped guys buy-in to what he’s trying to do and help guys get excited to play football this fall.”
Hill's defensive scheme requires assignment-sound play at all levels.
"It's a challenge for both the front seven and the defensive backs," said safety Micah Harper. "We're expecting the front seven to get some nice pressure on the quarterback and they're trusting us to lock it in on the back end as well."
The play of Harper and the safeties will be key to the team executing Hill's defense.
Harper, a redshirt sophomore, enters the season with the fifth-highest Pro Football Focus grade among returning Big 12 safeties.
In 2022, the 5-foot-10, 192-pound Harper played in all 13 games, starting nine for the Cougars. He finished the season as BYU’s third-leading tackler with 62 stops (35 solo), 2.5 tackles-for-loss, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Harper was also named to Phil Steele All-Independent Second Team and was named an Honorable Mention Freshman All-American by College Football News.
The Chandler, Arizona native looks to step up as a leader in 2023.
"I feel like I just got to BYU but I'm ready to step into that leadership role and lead this team," Harper said.
Watch Micah Harper's Day in the Life from February, 2023.
Experienced redshirt senior Malik Moore will look to return to the gridiron after playing in 47 games as one of BYU's most experienced players on the roster, starting 21 in his career. He has five career picks and has 64 total tackles.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Moore started in four games prior to a season-ending injury in 2022, posting nine total tackles.
In 2021, Moore tied for team lead in interceptions at three, coming against No. 19 Arizona State, Utah State and Washington State.
Moore was named to the 2021 Pro Football Network All-Independent First Team Defense, Phil Steele All-Independent Second Team Defense and was part of Pro Football Network All-Independent Secondary of the Year.
Watch BYU safety Malik Moore's Deep Blue from 2020 about how his mother influenced his voice for change.
A redshirt sophomore, 6-foot-2, 205-pound Talan Alfrey is back after playing in all 13 games and starting nine last season.
Alfrey posted 41 total tackles, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery. He also nabbed his first interception at Liberty in 2022.
The three players with extensive starting experience join returners Ethan Slade, who saw action in 11 games year, Preston Rex, Chika Ebunoha, Peter Tuipulotu and converted wideout Tanner Wall.
BYU added transfer Crew Wakley from Utah State who played in four games in 2021 against Washington State (9/4), North Dakota (9/10), Air Force (9/18) and Hawai’i (10/30). Wakley did not play in 2020 but earned Academic All-Mountain West honors.
In addition to Wakley, the Cougars picked up Malae Tanuvasa after one season at Utah. Tanuvasa did not appear in any game for the Utes but was a two-way player at Skyridge HS at running back and safety.
Talented in-state products Raider Damuni (Timpview HS) and Ty Burke (Syracuse HS) will be debuting with the Cougars this fall, both beginning their collegiate careers after returning from full-time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Damuni was a three-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN. He was rated the No. 41 recruit in the nation by 247Sports and is a Utah 5A Defensive MVP and Region 7 MVP.
Damuni registered 27 solo tackles, three interceptions, and a fumble recovery during his senior year. Damuni also accounted for 325 yards on offense as a senior with 121 rushing, 78 passing and 126 receiving.
Burke was named to the 2019 Deseret News 6A Second Team and helped Syracuse win the Region Title in 2019. His senior year, he totaled 787 yards on 45 catches and 12 touchdowns and 39 rushing yards on 11 carries. Burke was a two-time All-Region and All-Area player and was named second-team All-State twice.
With a blend of veterans, newcomers and untested youth, fall camp will be key preparation time for the safeties and defense as a whole.
"It's a process for sure," Harper said. "We've all got to adapt to each other's play but I think it's going to be nice chemistry once Sept. 2 comes against Sam Houston."
BYU football wrapped up its first week of fall camp with its fifth practice on Saturday morning.