Kenny Cox | Posted: 8 Dec 2022 | Updated: 15 Dec 2022

Kelly Poppinga Media Availability

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Kelly Poppinga media availability

New special teams coordinator and defensive coach Kelly Poppinga held a media availability session on Thursday afternoon.

Poppinga was added to the staff by head coach Kalani Sitake and associate head coach Jay Hill on Wednesday. 

Read select quotes from Coach Poppinga below or watch the complete interview.

Special Teams Coordinator Kelly Poppinga
“I'm very grateful for this opportunity to be back at my alma mater and to Kalani for giving me this opportunity. I'm just excited to be back and be able to help in any way I can, to go into the Big 12 and start competing and winning conference championships. That's what this place has been known for a really long time and I'm excited to get back to that and this role that he's given me. I walked in the office this morning for the first time, and it just felt like home, felt like I was back where I should be, so I'm very grateful and excited about getting things rolling here.”

On the value of pursuing conference titles
“Going from BYU to Virginia and being in a conference again, the biggest thing that stood out to me was just week in and week out, you were playing for that conference championship. Even at times where you had one or two losses, every game meant something still because you never knew what was going to happen throughout the conference. I think every year but our first year there, we had a chance to win our division and be able to play in that conference championship, and that was exciting. Every single week, you knew that you were going to be out there, you're playing for something real because you're trying to get to that conference championship game. That was fun, and to be able to experience that for six years in the ACC at Virginia and then this past season at Boise State, we had a ton of success playing in the conference championship game. There's just something more. When you're independent, t's kind of like you're playing for your pride. Each week you're playing great opponents, but ultimately, there is no conference championship there that you can really be able to compete for it, so this is a different deal. I'm excited for us to be back in this opportunity to compete for conference championships. I look back to my time as a player and being able to compete for those Mountain West Conference Championships and being on the last two teams that won conference championships in 2006 and 2007. Those are those are fond memories for me, and I look forward to creating more of those memories moving forward here.

On what he’s gained since his last stint in Provo
“I've gained so much. It was really hard to leave seven years ago. Going to a Power 5 conference and being able to learn the rigors of recruiting was probably the biggest thing that I've learned. Just understanding the process of recruiting at a Power Five level, the time that it's going to take and the recruiting battles that you're going to have to have to be able to get great recruits. Over my time that I was at BYU here before, I was only recruiting a handful of guys. You get to Virginia and it’s competitive, you’re fighting with the SEC and the Big 12 over the same guys and those were fun battles to have. Being able to experience that and understanding what it’s going to take as we’re heading into that level of recruiting now, we’re going to have to be in those battles, and if we’re not, we’re not going to be getting the right players that I believe we’re going to need to help win conference championships.

On the changes within the program since he was last at BYU
“I just got in this morning so haven’t been around the team at all yet. I’m anxious to get around the team and just see the culture, but when I walked in the building this morning, it just felt right. It felt like home, and it felt like I never felt. I drove up and parked in the same spot I did seven years ago, and it just felt good. I think that’s what great about BYU, there’s amazing people here that are aligned with the university. I don’t think it really matters who’s in charge, I think everyone is on board to hold a high standard here. That’s really the main thing that I’ve noticed going around today, there is a standard that’s held here. Kalani has done a great job competing for that high standard that’s been established here over the years. I’m excited to be able to help us hold that high standard of winning here, buy into his culture and way of doings things, and I’m even more excited to just learn that, get rolling on exactly what he wants done, and I’m fired up to be a part of it.”

On the value of special teams
“I just love the game. I think the thing I love most about special teams is it's a time when the whole team comes together. It's when the offensive side and the defensive side comes together and they're on the field at one time together and it's really, I believe, is the heart of the team. It's just the purest form of football, it's tackling and it's blocking. Being able to run, tackle, block and get some great returners out there that can make some plays and change the game, that's what I'm excited about. Obviously, I love defense and coaching linebackers and edge guys, so whatever role I have there, I'll be fired up about, but ultimately, I love special teams because I believe it brings the whole team together and that's the heart of our team.”

On how his coaching style will fit in Kalani and Jay Hill’s system
“I think it's super simple. Just the conversations that I've had with coach Hill because we didn't know each other really, we started talking on Sunday, and just kind of getting to know each other. The words that he was using are the same words that I grew up in in this profession: accountability, discipline, toughness. Those are the things that he's wanting to instill this defense, and those are things that I've been taught from the very beginning. I think we're aligned in a lot of ways with that. He's always had tough, physical teams, and I know that we're going to establish that where it's going to start, and both of us are in accordance with this, it's going to start in practice. The way that we practice and the way that we go about establishing that physicality and that toughness, that accountability, that discipline, it starts in practice. If we don’t do it in practice, it’s never going to translate to the game and so we're excited to get that get that rolling here, man, and it's going to be a fun challenge for us.”

On his impressions of the program and how he’ll be able to build it
“I really respect it. I didn't look much at the defense at the time, just facing the offense but really respect A-Rod, Fesi and that whole staff of what they've been able to accomplish, not just the past two years, but three, four years that they've been just rolling on offense. It's a difficult scheme to defend, and they've done a great job, just being able to be balanced, being able to throw the ball down the field, and being able to run the football. A balanced attack is the hardest thing to defend, so I really respect those guys, they do a great job. That's really the main thing that I have just seen from them, the O-line is big, strong, and physical. You've got these big, tall receivers on the outside and good tight ends, running backs that run the ball hard and then quarterbacks that are, I mean, they're just they're balanced everywhere. That's a hard scheme to attack defensively when you've got balance and guys everywhere to contribute the ball and so it's a challenge. I'm glad I'm glad I'm on their side now and don't have to defend against it, but it'll be fun to go against those guys in practice and learn and grow that way. I also just really respect Coach Kalani in the way that he's built his culture here. It's different from the way that I was here in a lot of ways but very similar in a lot of ways, and so just anxious to continue to learn and grow from him and just seeing how he's built this winning tradition over the past seven years.”

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