A few hours after BYU coach Kalani Sitake announced the home run hire of Weber State coach Jay Hill as the Cougars’ new defensive coordinator and associate head coach, he added another vital piece to his staff.

Former BYU linebacker and assistant coach Kelly Poppinga will return to the Provo school as BYU’s special teams coordinator and defensive assistant coach. Poppinga coached at Boise State this season, and worked under former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia from 2016-21.

“Kelly is a BYU guy who has a ton of previous experience with BYU football, having both played here and coached here,” Sitake said in a school news release. “He’s recruited and coached some great players over his career, guys he has helped get to the NFL. Kelly is a tireless worker and a relentless recruiter. He brings outstanding experience as a special teams coordinator and defensive coach and coordinator from his time at Virginia in the ACC and with Boise State. I’m excited to have him back at BYU.” 

Poppinga has 14 years of coaching experience, 12 as a full-time assistant and 10 as a coordinator or co-coordinator. According to the release, specific position assignments for Poppinga and other defensive staff members will be determined later.

“Having coached against him when he was a player, I saw his toughness and tenacity up close. As a coach, his players always performed great on game day. He is a phenomenal recruiter that does the little things right and will bring great players into our program.” — New BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill

Whatever the case, Hill said Poppinga will be a key part of the defensive staff in addition to his special teams duties.

“Having coached against him when he was a player, I saw his toughness and tenacity up close. As a coach, his players always performed great on game day. He is a phenomenal recruiter that does the little things right and will bring great players into our program. BYU is lucky to have Kelly back, and I’m super excited to be working side-by-side with him. We can’t wait to bring championship defense to Provo.”

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Poppinga was co-special teams coordinator and EDGE position coach at Boise State in 2022. Before he worked at Virginia, he was on BYU’s staff for seven seasons.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity coach Sitake has given me to be a part of this program at this exciting time as we enter the Big 12,” Poppinga said in the news release. “BYU has a strong tradition of winning conference championships in the past, and I look forward to doing my part to help this program compete and win Big 12 championships in the future.”

Boise State was No. 6 in total defense this season, allowing just 281.3 yards per game. The Broncos are No. 11 in scoring defense, giving up 18.5 points per game.

When he was at BYU previously, Poppinga helped develop outside linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Spencer Hadley, Alani Fua, Sione Takitaki and Fred Warner.