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BYU football 2014: In quest for perfection, Harvey Langi ascends LB depth chart

BYU Cougars.
BYU Cougars.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Current BYU linebacker Harvey Langi, a former Utah Utes running back, is on a quest. Having returned from an LDS mission to Florida just days before deciding to leave Utah for BYU, Langi has drawn attention to himself for trying to do something right for once, by his own admission, by transferring to an in-state rival school with more stringent standards of personal conduct.

Not since Riley Nelson left Utah State for BYU did fans of both schools show as much outright hatred towards one another on message boards after they heard rumors about Langi wanting to leave. Things got downright ugly for awhile, while both coaches denied the rumors--and the story written by a former BYU star declaring Langi's intentions to leave--all while a photo on Instagram stated the obvious: Langi was going to BYU. All of the above brought negative publicity on Langi.

Now it's Langi himself who is turning heads--in a positive direction. According to several BYU Cougars football coaches on Wed. Aug. 13, Langi is rapidly moving up the depth chart at Mike linebacker, or middle linebacker--a position which carries with it a great deal of responsibility. The Mike LB's job, in a matter of speaking, is to be the "quarterback" of the linebackers.

The job was slated to be given to Granger High product and BYU junior Manoa Pikula--a friend who also happened to appear with Langi in that afore-mentioned Instagram photo unofficially announcing Langi's decision to transfer. But, Pikula's academics appear to be in question at the moment--and Langi hadn't yet arrived on campus to make life more interesting.

The bar for all Mike linebackers past and present at BYU had been set by Uani Unga--a player who, like NFL-bound Kyle Van Noy, Spencer Hadley and Daniel Sorensen, graduated last year. Unga's departure left a crater-sized hole at the Mike position--one that Pikula expected to fill.

The "mike" calls the defense's plays at the line of scrimmage--not unlike the job Langi had at Bingham as the team's starting running back. There, he'd get the football and assess his situation at the line of scrimamge--and on a dime make the necessary cuts to find holes in the defense to run through.

At BYU though, Langi's job will consist of moving those chess pieces in pads and uniforms on the opposite side of the field, attempting to plug up those holes. Talk about a reversal of fortune for Langi, a player who was a four-star recruit for the Miners, who was expected to be a star running back at Utah.

As a fan, you believed Langi was destined to succeed at RB, having come from Bingham High where he ran for an insane amount of yardage, helping lead the Miners to back-to-back state titles. For many reasons, Langi never took the field much at Utah.

Langi ended his one-year Utes career buried at the bottom of the depth chart at running back--while players from the great, and big, state of California continued enrolling at "The U". John White IV and Lucky Radley, Bubba Poole and now Devontae Booker made it nearly impossible for Langi to see the field.

Naturally, Langi--who was actually on the RB depth chart at Utah before his mission and wasn't upon returning--had a decision to make. Utah wanted to make him into a linebacker; Langi still preferred to play running back.

While it's ironic Langi decided to play linebacker at BYU after all, in other ways it isn't. It's safe to argue that BYU coaches are probably better suited teaching Langi how to play a defensive position. Bronco Mendenhall himself was a defensive coordinator for years before finally giving up the reins this season--while Utah head coach Whittingham let go of his many years ago.

BYU's inside linebackers coach Paul Tidwell told the Deseret News in an interview on Wed. Aug. 13 that if the Cougars had to make a decision on who would start against UConn today, Langi would get the nod for several reasons.

"He really is impressive, just coming home (from a mission) just before (fall camp),” Tidwell said. “Physically, man, if you could duplicate him and have seven guys out there at inside ’backer that look like that guy — athletic, strong, big — now he just has to learn it. He’s got to get the reps and learn it. It’s a brand new position for him. But athletically and physically, he can make up for a lot just by hustle and by who he is. He tries hard. I’ve been very impressed by how hard he tries.”

Effort and talent have never been issues for Langi. Character, however, is where some might draw the line on the former Bingham star. His decision to "leak" his intentions through Vai Sikahema, a former BYU star--even if Langi was still technically enrolled at Utah--raised a few eyebrows. Then there was the Instagram photo coming from Langi's former Bingham and current BYU teammate, Kesni Tausinga.

Langi's Twitter profile text also makes you wonder if he realizes what he's getting himself into at BYU, a school notorious for cracking down hard on, and in some cases suspending, players who violate the school's Honor Code for such random things as pre-marital sex, wearing earrings, and sporting mustaches.

"Why you lookin at me like you just ate a s**tsandwich," states Langi's Twitter profile--the first words you read upon perusing his page, plain as day, in the upper left hand corner.

In any case, watching Langi at BYU will be an interesting endeavor. As a casual observer, you wonder if Langi really is aware how scrutinized you are as a BYU student. Based on looking at his Twitter page alone, you reason he still has some growing up to do. Even Langi's decision to play at BYU as a linebacker surprised Bronco Mendenhall--who had Langi pegged as a running back.

Langi's talent and effort are obviously helping him ascend BYU's depth chart at linebacker, a thin position to say the least--since Unga, Van Noy, Sorensen and Hadley have all taken their considerable talents to the NFL.

In one sense, you hope Langi makes it at BYU and becomes a star at whatever position he sets his mind to. In another sense, you realize that the road he has chosen to embark on is long, filled with potential potholes large enough to swallow even a player of his immense caliber.