From left to right, Robert Anae, Nick Howell and Kelly Poppinga will serve as assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator. (Photo by BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah — BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall today outlined additional leadership responsibilities of his coaching staff, announcing offensive coordinator Robert Anae will serve as assistant head coach, secondary coach Nick Howell as defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga as special teams coordinator.
“This formally recognizes our staff responsibilities and the contributions already being made by our coaches,” Mendenhall said. “Robert, Nick and Kelly are pillars of our coaching staff. I have complete confidence in their coaching and leadership abilities and the sincere desire each has to help the young men in our program succeed at the highest level. I have great expectations regarding the contributions of each member of our staff as we prepare our team for the 2013 season.”
Mendenhall will continue to call defensive plays and work with Howell in coordinating the defense.
“Nick has already been serving in this capacity in many ways but without formal recognition of that role,” Mendenhall said. “Whenever I have been unable to stay with our defensive coaches due to my responsibilities as the head coach, Nick has provided that leadership in my absence. I will maintain play-calling duties and continue to work with Nick in our established pattern regarding the daily oversight of our defense.”
BYU has produced one of the nation’s top defenses since Mendenhall put the current defensive staff in place going into the sixth game of the 2010 season. Ranked No. 101 in total defense at the time, BYU improved to become the nation’s No. 24 overall defense by year’s end. The Cougars ranked No. 13 in total defense in 2011 and last year boasted the No. 3 defense in the nation.
BYU’s special teams coordinator the past two seasons, Howell will continue to coach the Cougar secondary, where he has served since switching from outside linebackers during the 2010 season. Entering his seventh season in Provo and 12th year of coaching, Howell started at BYU as a defensive intern (2007) and graduate assistant (2008-09) after working in Utah’s high school coaching ranks. Prior to BYU, he was the head coach at Ben Lomond High School (2004-06), defensive coordinator at Weber High School (2003) and defensive line coach at Sky View High School (2002).
Poppinga takes over the role of special teams coordinator previously held by Howell. Poppinga is entering his fifth year at BYU, including third full season as the team’s outside linebackers coach. Following his playing days as an all-conference BYU linebacker (2005-07) and member of the Arizona Cardinals’ 2008 Super Bowl team, Poppinga began his coaching career as a defensive intern at BYU in 2009 before being named interim outside linebackers coach as a graduate assistant during the 2010 season.
“Kelly has demonstrated as both a player and a coach that he demands excellence of himself and others,” Mendenhall said. “Kelly, like Nick, is a bright, skilled football coach and has earned the opportunity to help us build our program in a coordinator role. He has excelled as our outside linebackers coach and will continue to do so.”
In addition to overseeing the offense, Anae takes on the role of assistant head coach to aid Mendenhall as needed with the program as a whole.
“As I’ve stated previously, Robertis an extremely intelligent man of great personal integrity who is totally loyal to me and our program,” Mendenhall said. “I have full confidence he will not only help our offense succeed but also make great contributions to our entire program in the role as assistant head coach.”
A 24-year coaching veteran at seven different schools, Anae returned to his alma mater BYU in January for his second stint as offensive coordinator. During his first tenure as offensive coordinator at BYU from 2005-10, the Cougar offense was extremely successful, earning top-25 NCAA statistical rankings in 10 different offensive categories a total of 35 times, including 15 top-10 ratings.
Anae, who also works with the offensive line, oversees a new offensive staff at BYU that consists of Mark Atuaia (running backs), Jason Beck (quarterbacks), Guy Holliday (receivers) and Garett Tujague (offensive line). Mendenhall and Howell (secondary) coordinate a cohesive defensive staff that also includes Poppinga (outside linebackers, special teams) and coaching veterans Steve Kaufusi (defensive line) and Paul Tidwell (inside linebackers).
BYU will start spring practices on Monday, March 4 and conclude spring drills on Friday, April 5. The team will conduct a spring scrimmage open to the public at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, March 30 at 11 a.m. Additional details will be announced at a later date.