Defensive Linemen Prepare for Season

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    By Ethan Thomas

    For BYU?s defense to only give up 14.7 points and be ranked No. 10 nationally in 2006, it took great performances from every position on the field.

    This off-season a young group of defensive linemen looks to improve on last year?s unexpected success, and show why defense begins up front with the big guys.

    ?The d-line is young and experienced, which is a unique combination,? coach Bronco Mendenhall said. ?They were almost all freshmen last year, and now they?re sophomores and they?re back, which is great.?

    This year?s defensive line is full of sophomores who, as freshmen, had the opportunity to clog up the middle on last year?s nationally ranked team.

    Although they were a young squad last year, they didn?t show it.

    They played within themselves with a bend-but-don?t-break mentality that also helped lead the Cougar defense to 24 sacks and nine fumble recoveries.

    However, the Cougar defensive linemen feel that with a year under their belts they should be even better.

    ?We?re a lot more confident,? defensive end Jan Jorgensen said. ?You watch the games last year, we started off solid and we just kept getting better and better as the year went along. Getting that game experience really gives us that confidence that we can go against anybody.?

    While defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi is happy with the confidence they are gaining, he wants them to be aware that they will have new challenges this season.

    ?The bottom line is that our offense exploded last year and made it easy for us,? he said. ?It worked out nice last year with the young group that we had. Everyone thought the d-line was going to struggle, but I thought the kids showed up and they proved everybody wrong. We still have a long ways to go, though.?

    Throughout spring practice, several players have started right where they left off in the fall.

    Jorgensen and Ian Dulan are the two ends in the trio of sophomores getting reps with the first-team defense. Jorgensen recorded 34 tackles last season and was credited with five sacks while starting in all 13 games. Dulan started in five games last year before suffering a season-ending leg injury.

    In the middle, Russell Tialavea returns after starting seven games at nose tackle in his freshman season. He racked up 22 tackles last year, three of which were for a loss.

    Throughout this off-season all three sophomores have shown improvement.

    ?They have all progressed,? Mendenhall said. ?We have some depth concerns, but we add some depth when we get some people back from injury and a few recruits coming in. I think we will have between five and seven ready to play.?

    As spring practice continues, the coaches just want this group of defensive linemen to get stronger and continue to do what made them so good last year.

    ?No one knew who they were,? Mendenhall said. ?They weren?t really talked about, and they weren?t really acknowledged other than helping us to play really good defense. That is kind of their mindset and I don?t think they are looking to expand that. They just want to do their part.?

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