BYU Football Hires Former Player Justin Ena To Join Defensive Staff

Jan 2, 2023, 5:01 PM | Updated: 5:26 pm
Justin Ena, BYU Football, coach...
Former Utah Utes assistant coach Justin Ena is now joining the BYU Football program. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO, UtahΒ – Former BYU football linebacker Justin Ena is returning home to his alma mater.

BYU announced Monday that Ena is the newest Cougars revamped defensive staff member. Ena will coach the linebackers. Kelly Poppinga will coach the defensive ends, Sione Po’uha will be on defensive tackles, Jernaro Gilford remains with the cornerbacks, and defensive coordinator Jay Hill will lead the safeties.

Justin Ena was an All-MWC linebacker at BYU

Ena was an All-Mountain West Conference linebacker at BYU. After his time at BYU, he was in the NFL for four seasons, then he began his coaching career.

“I am super excited to have Justin join our coaching staff,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “Justin and I played together at BYU, and I’ve followed closely his coaching career over the years. He has worked with many defensive-minded head coaches and gained valuable experience as both a defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator in addition to coaching several different positions on defense. He’s a great fit. He’s a BYU guy and complements well the strengths of our defensive staff.”

Coaching career

Ena’s coaching career began at Southern Utah. He then moved up north at Weber State. Ena made a name for himself in the coaching ranks was his work on Kyle Whittingham’s staff at Utah. From 2015 to 2019, Ena coached linebackers for the Utes.

He left the Utes to follow Gary Andersen at Utah State to become a defensive coordinator for the first time in his career. Then, after two years with the Aggies, he was off to Dixie State in 2021 as a defensive coordinator and safeties coach. Then this past year, he was the defensive line coach at San Diego State.

“I am excited to join Coach Sitake at our alma mater and cannot wait to work with him and Coach Hill and their outstanding coaching staff,” Justin Ena said. “I am beyond blessed to be able to come back home to BYU and win conference championships in the Big 12.”

History with Jay Hill

Ena joins a BYU defensive staff that former Weber State head coach Jay Hill will lead. Hill worked with Ena for a season at Weber State. Sitake and Hill have collaborated on the new staff they’ve brought in for year one of BYU’s time in the Big 12 Conference.

“I am excited to be working with Justin Ena again,” Jay Hill said. “He brings great toughness and discipline to our defensive staff. He was a great player here at BYU and has been an outstanding coach throughout his career. He has worked with many elite coaches during his career and will bring great knowledge to our staff. I’m elated to have him coaching our players here at BYU.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Football Hires Former Player Justin Ena To Join Defensive Staff