Only the most knowledgeable BYU football fans had a clear idea of who Kevin Clune was when he officially joined the Cougar coaching staff last February, since he hadn’t had any previous high-profile role as a player or as a coach in Provo.
His connections to the BYU program were more subtle.
Not only had he been a volunteer defensive analyst for the Cougars in 2020, he also had prepared many team to face the Cougars in years past during a coaching career that included stops at Utah (graduate assistant), Southern Utah, Weber State, Utah State, Hawai’i, Oregon State and Memphis.
Even with all that experience, however, even Clune called the path he took to his current position “not planned.”
“I started hanging out here as soon as the Navy and Army games got inked last summer,” Clune said at BYU football Media Day in June. “I was at Memphis and we played hard against Navy for two years, so I had some ideas about option defense. I wanted to help out. It grew from there and I started showing up every day.”
Part of the reason for Clune’s decision stemmed from the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I sold my house in Memphis and I wanted to get out west,” Clune said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen but I didn’t want to get stuck out there away from everyone I knew. I was going to California but that was so locked down that I ended up staying in Utah. It was crazy.”
He said one of the best moments of the transition was seeing what BYU did on the field to start the 2020 season.
“I kind of showed up and the kids could’ve been like, ‘who is this guy?’” Clune said. “But they were open. For the Navy game, when they came out to play and play hard, it was like, wow, that was awesome. That was a big moment. We had some big wins last year.”
In moving from his analyst role to being a full-time coach, Clune said he feels like he has found a home.
“Working with great friends and people I love, family-type people, has been awesome,” Clune said. “The big surprise was that the kids in the linebacker room are tremendous kids. I can’t say enough about them. Every day has been great. I didn’t think I would like working here this much. These kids really set it apart from other jobs.”
BYU sophomore linebacker Max Tooley said at Media Day that Clune has already demonstrated that he will be a valuable addition.
“It’s been a lot different than it has in the past, having someone consistently as a linebacker coach,” Tooley said. “We’ve always had a different coach but now we have that coach who is consistently with us. He is a great coach, one who is super-involved. He is always wanting the best for us. It’s been nice to have that consistency in the linebacker room.”
Tooley believes his guys will be able to maximize the benefit of that instruction because they already are bringing a lot of experience to the table.
“A lot of the guys have played last year or the year before,” Tooley said. “Most of us have been in games so I think having a coach who has a lot of coaching experience, the combination of those two has a lot of positive outlooks. I think we will be a well put-together group and the pieces will really come together.”
Clune has big expectations for the BYU linebackers and expects them to take care of business with their assignments in 2021.
“It means we are producing the way we need to produce and we are limiting our mistakes,” Clune said. “The other area is the leadership. When there is an emotional up or down, can we get back on target quickly. I’m going to put a lot on these guys. My personality is something unique, something they hadn’t dealt with yet. I believe they can handle it. The ups and downs of the team, I’m going to put it on them a little bit. I’m going to put a tremendous amount of responsibility on them to do their best and then hold them accountable. I think these kids can go a long way.”