Future is bright for BYU

With the New Mexico Bowl looming around the corner, the Cougars are preparing to take on the UTEP Miners. There is a group of Cougar seniors that will leave the program once the final whistle is blown, and Coach Mendenhall went to them seeking input. The meeting was just as much about them as it was for the future of BYU's football program.

"You know, after we play UTEP it's going to be a bittersweet moment for me," said senior cornerback Brian Logan. "I am excited for the future of this team though. I'm excited for the younger generation because they know what it takes to win. I think many forgot that or expected things just to happen, but many have learned what it takes now and I think we've kind of set that example."

"Oh yeah, this team is being set up for some really good things," said senior linebacker Shane Hunter. "I'm very confident this program will be in great hands once I'm gone. I mean, we still have one more game to play and so we're focusing on that right now, but when it's all said and done what's being developed right now on this team is pretty exciting.

"Come next year, this team will be tougher and way more athletic. There will be a lot more speed and physicality on the field, and when you have that type of athleticism that's bought into what Coach Mendenhall has established, you can't help but think the program is in very good hands. I'm actually really excited about where things are going and it's going to be fun watching this team do some great things."

To ensure quality control, Coach Mendenhall met with his senior players. He wanted to get their perspective on the football program.

"Coach Mendenhall is always asking for our feedback," said Hunter. "He'll have a meeting with the seniors and pull us aside and ask us, 'Hey, what do you guys want to see for the rest of the season?' I remember one meeting he asked me what I would like to see. One of the more common things that was said was everyone said they wanted him to continue the culture that he's established. I think that was one of the big things. We want him to continue to push the guys as hard as he can and make them push themselves as hard as they can."

Following practices this week, the already tired and worn-out Cougars have been put through a series of exercise drills. Coaches and assistants such as Kelly Poppinga, Nick Howell and Shawn Nua have been joining in on the rigorous activities in a show of support from time to time. Running guys into the ground is all by design.

"[Mendenhall's] going to do that anyways," said Hunter. "I mean, you know he is, but I think it was good for him to hear it from us that this is what the seniors wanted him to continue to do. You hate him for it when you first get here and are going through it, but you learn what's expected of you and it's a molding experience. It's pushing you to the max, and with that you learn the culture here at BYU. I think it's a great thing what's going on and Coach Mendenhall does a great job. He's going to push them as hard as he can, and then once they reach that level he's going to push them even harder. These guys are going to be good."

Another plea from the senior Cougars was for Mendenhall to stay connected to the program as the defensive coordinator.

"He's so good at what he does as a defensive coordinator, his scheme and how he uses it," said Hunter. "It's made such a big difference for us, and I would say his personality has come through in our defense. Just that scrappy, tough demeanor has come out, and that's because of him. We have all 11 guys running to the ball and that's what he expects. The mentality is you don't let anyone finish first between you and the ball. It gets to the point to where it just becomes so part of your game you don't do anything else. It's not, 'Okay, you can do this if you want to.' You either become a part of what's expected or you're not going to be on the field. I think it's really helped our defense with the intensity, and that has carried over into the offense with their intensity. It's just kind of engulfed our whole team and has made us all better as a whole.

"When you have someone like that coaching you, it just builds confidence. I know that the day Coach Mendenhall found out that we were playing UTEP in the bowl game, he was already planning. I know he's going to put us into a position of success and it's just us that has to go out and execute. We have to go out and do what he wants us to do and have fun while doing it."

When it comes to the future of BYU's program, Logan hopes he can remain a part of it as a G.A. However, he also wants to give the NFL a shot.

"We've talked about it during the summer and I tried to talk to [Coach Mendenhall] about it last week," said Logan about being a G.A. "He was kind of busy so I kind of just left it at that until later. I definitely want to try and make it to the next level. I'm going to train and continue to work hard like I'm a first-round guy. That's my mindset going into it and whatever happens, happens. I'm just going to put it into the hands of God. I think that I've accepted the fact that I might not make it into the next level.

"I think especially by being here, it's taught me that there is more to life than just football. That's what I've learned. I've come from wanting to be all of these different types of things to coming here and learning what Coach Mendenhall has taught me. I want to do the same thing and help others. If there is a spot that's open I would love to be a G.A. here at BYU. I definitely want to get my masters degree, and if a spot came open after my two years is up I would definitely want to stay here at BYU and be a coach to be a part of this program."

If he is given an opportunity to become a part of the program at some future time, Logan feels there are valuable assets he could bring to the table.

"I think I can help out this program is so many different ways," said Logan. "I think I understand the example that Coach Mendenhall has set for this program, and I think by being non-LDS I can really help [other non-LDS players] coming in. I've heard a lot of struggles that they've had in the past with guys and honor code and things like that. Before I even get to that point I think I can help with recruiting as well.

"I remember a couple of times where Coach Mendenhall had me to host a couple of guys, where he came to me afterwards and asked, 'Would he last here or would he not?' A majority of times I would say, 'Yeah, he'll make it here,' and then there were other times where I told him, ‘No he wouldn't.' So I think I can really help because I've been a part of this program. There's nothing like having a coach that has played that position, and so I think I can help in that area as well. Either way, I think the future is bright for this program, but right now we gotta go out and get one more win against UTEP and then see what happens after that."

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