Seeing the difference

Uani Unga

College sports fans often question the coaches of their beloved team. The fans of BYU are no different. So in an effort to get an idea on how the coaches at BYU fare, former Oregon State linebacker Uani Unga gives a rundown of what he's seen after having been in two separate programs.

With a new baby on the way, Oregon State linebacker Uani Unga decided to transfer to BYU to be closer to family. Having now spent time in the Cougar program under Coach Mendenhall, Unga has taken notice of a few differences between the two programs.

"I guess the main difference from Oregon State to BYU are the coaches," said Unga. "Over here at BYU, the coaches are more on your backs all the time. They're looking more for effort out of the athletes and finishing to the line and making sure you're giving it your all."

Okay, well, we know that effort and finishing are things the Cougar coaches have emphasized so much that even Cougar fans got tired of hearing about them. But Unga feels there is more to this than just coach speak, and that it's this different perspective from the Cougar coaching staff that will make the difference in the end.

"I think both coaches from both programs understand that they do have athletes," said Unga. "I just think that BYU does a good job in kind of putting situations in for players to build their potential and progress more. For me personally, being here at BYU, I've seen more personal grown than I did at Oregon State."

Coming from a prestigious program, Unga feels that athletes often get caught up in the hype.

"I think sometimes the mentality at Oregon State is, ‘We're kind of on top of the world, being a D-I athlete in the Pac-12,'" said Unga. "I feel like there you can relax, being in that famous mode, but over here it's more like, ‘Yeah, you're athletes, but you haven't reached your potential as athletes.' I think here they push more to reach your potential as athletes.

"I think a lot of the times at universities you're always going to have athletes. The difference that BYU is trying to make over other programs is we have athletes too. Sure, other teams may have athletes, but we are putting in a lot more effort than a lot of other athletes."

Upon coming to BYU, Unga had to face reality.

"You come over here and you think you're an athlete until you step on the field," Unga said. "Then you realize you're just another scrub and you're not all that, but the coaches do that to try and break that mentality down so they can build you up to be the best and reach your true potential."

The coaches at BYU will run their players through drills that require the players to focus and get it right as a team. If there is one discrepancy from anyone while running the drill, it will be redone over and over by everyone until it's done perfectly. This breaks down any personal perception one might have that he can do things better than anyone else.

"Yeah, that's how I feel," said Unga with a laugh. "I feel like they're trying to humble you. When you get that scholarship from a major D-I college, you kind of have that feeling that you're better than half the world. When you come here they put you on that different level by saying, ‘No, you're not the best you can be. You have to work more to reach your potential.'"

As Unga has seen firsthand by being a part of both Oregon State and BYU, conference affiliation doesn't determine the quality of an athlete. That is supported by BYU's victories over Oregon State in 2009 and 2011.

Rather than conference affiliation, it's how much ability a program can squeeze out of its athletes that truly makes a difference.

"I think both teams have great athletes that can work more and develop more, but I think BYU can go up against Oregon State and any other program any day. I feel that way because I've seen it and have been a part of two programs that have played a lot of different types of teams. Over here there is a certain culture in the program where we are expected to reach our potential to be able to play against anyone. I think that that's one thing that the coaches really focus on."

Uani Unga update

Last year, Unga was singled out by Coach Mendenhall as someone that he felt could contribute to the program, and even earned scout team player of the week at one time. In last Saturday's scrimmage, Unga had a good showing, pressuring the quarterbacks and making plays on the field. However, after the game he couldn't move his arm.

"It didn't happen during the game, and I never felt it like that in the game, but it happened after the game," he said. "I got it checked out and got it x-rayed and they said that the bone tissue is like a wear-and-tear thing and it will heal on its own."

Unga was seen wearing a sling this week, but said it isn't too serious.

"Yeah, I'll be back for fall camp," Unga said. "This thing shouldn't be that long. I just need to let it rest."

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