"I think that I can do a lot of work, continuing in making sure our offense sees things from a defensive perspective and uses the talent that we have," Mendenhall said during the BYU Football Media Day.
Counting two seasons as a graduate assistant, Howell is entering his eighth year at BYU. "We've been in every meeting together and he knows exactly how the system runs and I think he's ready and capable," Mendenhall said.
The new assignment will be "a little change-up," Howell said. "Our defensive staff does a good job collaborating, putting together a game plan. It's never been one guy saying, 'OK, fellas, this is what we're doing.'"
BYU is awaiting the NCAA's response to its self-reported violations, related to impermissible benefits provided to players.
Athletic director Tom Holmoe spoke of "a potential violation that would be in the lower category" and Mendenhall said he would be surprised if any NCAA punishment affected the 2014 team.
Mendenhall based his prediction on BYU's investigation "how thorough it was, how fast we reported it and the nature of the violations," he said.
Senior defensive back Jordan Johnson tore an ACL in fall camp last year and missed the season. He started 12 games in 2012.
"It took awhile, but I'm back," Johnson said. "Physically, I'm back. I'm ready. I'm working hard in the weight room with the guys. Once I got that go-ahead for 7-on-7 and working this summer, I took that head-on. So I'm excited for fall camp. …
"I'm going to approach this year [by] not taking anything for granted. You can be playing one day and not playing the next. That happened to me. So I'm going to approach this year with no regrets. I'm going to give it my all."
After Mendenhall suggested the "starting point" for a "special season" would be 10 wins and a top-25 finish in the rankings, quarterback Taysom Hill agreed.
"BYU has been an established program throughout the country and we're very capable of that," he said. "I also think, looking through our schedule, there's not a game we can't win. So my mentality is to win every game. Obviously we have some challenges. … But I believe this team has the potential and I think this team should win every game."
Still dreaming of Big 12
Two weeks ago, Mendenhall spoke openly to a Texas newspaper about BYU joining a conference.
"We would love to be in the Big 12," he said. "I would love to be a member of that conference. I think that would make a lot of sense. In fact, if that was your headline, that would be great."
Mendenhall didn't back down Monday.
"Independence is a fantastic place to launch from," he said. "… But [the Big 12] would be a better way to do it."