A good football coach will assess his talent and devise creative ways to use it for the betterment of the team. Such is the case with BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, who recently changed BYU’s defense to feature his linebackers.
What can a coach do to a depleted defensive line that lost many starting seniors all of which were big and experienced? According to sophomore defensive end Jan Jorgensen, the new defensive front will be a strength despite their youth and inexperience.
“We’re smaller but we’re faster,” said Jorgensen. “I definitely think because we are faster, it will be a strength for us this year, and I also think Coach Mendenhall is getting a feel for us too.”
According to Jorgensen, Mendenhall has seen enough of BYU’s new front three to develop ways to use the smaller, quicker D-linemen to create problems for bigger offensive linemen. Mendenhall and defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi, designed their scheme so as to create mismatches in the trenches.
“In his play calling, Coach Mendenhall is allowing us to move all around,” said Jorgensen. “If we had the big horses up there again this year, they would just line up and pound at them straight on. Now Coach Mendenhall is seeing how much faster we are and how well we move around and is doing things that will take advantage of that. I think it’s working to our advantage because we had our offensive linemen all off balance. They were missing blocks because we were quick-shooting gaps. I think our speed is going to be an advantage for us.”
In addition to their competitive desire to prove themselves against a bigger and more experienced O-line, the three starting down linemen also have a strong rivalry amongst themselves, but this rivalry is centered in the weight room.
“We’re just going to continue to try to get better from here on out,” said Jorgensen. “Me, Kyle [Luekenga] and Hala [Paongo] are all in a lifting group together, so we’re all going to be busting our butts every single day in the weight room lifting together and pushing each other. Especially because me, Kyle and Hala are very competitive against each other, so whenever we start doing our lifts we don’t want to get out done by the other.
“We all have our different strengths, like Hala’s upper body with his bench—man he just puts it up. With me, I’m the guy with the legs, and I can beat out those guys with the squats, and Kyle has us all beat with the clean. All three of us have our strengths, so we’re just pushing each other and I know in the weight room we’re going to be very competitive to catch up to or beat each other’s strengths.”
The weights put up by the Cougars’ starting defensive line is staggering, especially when considering that they are all light for their positions.
“I can squat about 510 to 515,” said Jorgensen. “It will get even better before fall practice. With Kyle, his hang clean is up there. I think his power clean is around 320. Hala’s bench is way up there. He can easily bench in the upper 400 area, so he’s way up there, and it’s impressive. It’s fun to compete against these guys and to see it all happen.”
Daily competition against two veteran offensive linemen has only help Jorgensen and his teammates on the D-line. By the conclusion of spring practice, the defensive front was scrappy and fiercely competitive.
“Every day, I will be out there after conditioning working my technique, my footwork and will be working on my hands in order to be able to move around and fight off those offensive linemen and get off the blocks,” Jorgensen said. “Jake [Kuresa], Eddie [Keele] and some of the other guys are some of the best around.
“Just trying to battle those guys and I know me, Hala and Kyle are very competitive players and we don’t like to get shown up by anybody. We don’t care if you’re a senior or All-Conference or an All-American; we don’t like to get shown up by anybody. For us to rise up to their level is great, and we’re playing at their level. When we get out there on the field and play against guys with less ability than them, we’re going to be out there tearing it up.”