Number one expects to be back on top

On many levels, it's been a tough spring camp for Jordan Pendleton. He's had to endure the pain of rehab following two surgeries from injuries suffered over the course of last season, and he's had to watch from the sidelines while others get a chance to play the sport he loves. Nevertheless, he's seen a lot of progress and thinks this defense has the potential to be one of BYU's best.

Prior to suffering two separate injuries that eventually sidelined him for the season, Jordan Pendleton was a rising star on BYU's defense. He dominated at the outside linebacker position in defending against both the run and the pass against top teams like Oklahoma, but that all came to an abrupt end following his injuries last year.

"I had an operation on my shoulder and on my knee as well," Pendleton said. "It was all done on the same day and that was tough. I'm just trying to get my knee back up to full strength and my shoulder up to full strength so I can get back so I can be out for fall camp."

The good news is that Pendleton is making progress in his rehab efforts.

"I'm in the process of starting to run and start lifting," Pendleton said. "In four more months I'll doing everything that everybody else is doing and that's the plan, so I'm getting closer and closer. I'm on the downhill stage of this process and I've already gone through all the hard parts of all this – the rehab and all the recovering part of this. Now it's just how fast my body can get back."

Periodically, Pendleton will journey out to the practice field during practices following his rehab. Although he isn't able to participate in drills or team sessions, he still suits up in his Cougar uniform to join his teammates and watch them play. So which has been more difficult, the rehab or being away from the field?

"That's a tough question," Pendleton said with a smile. "I would have to say being off the field for sure. It's hard to just sit and watch, but rehab sucks too. It all sucks, but being away from the field is probably the hardest.

"It's interesting because once you can't do all the physical things, you have to still find ways to stay on top of your game. For me, right now, it's about watching a lot of film and doing mental reps. I watch a lot of Jameson [Frazier] and Kyle [Van Noy] on film and see what they're doing and what they're doing wrong. That's what helps me stay a part of the team and helps me to feel like I'm still up to par with what's going on."

Pendleton's analysis of his teammates' performance is very, very positive. He's seen a big improvement in the defense over the course of last year. Much of that has come with the direct influence of Coach Mendenhall's hand being firmly gripped on the throttle. The defensive potential also has a lot to do with the caliber of athletes that are competing.

"They're doing great and I've seen huge improvements in both of them," said Pendleton about Frazier and Van Noy. "I'm seeing huge improvements in Kyle and he's just getting better and better. Jameson is always consistent, and I'm happy with what they're doing. Of course I want to be the guy, but I also want them to be the best they can be for this team. We need to be the best at every position to make this defense as tough as it can be no matter who is out there. This is going to take all of us at that position, and so it's great to see that they're doing really good. The more depth we have, the better competition there will be and the better team will be."

There is so much talent and quality depth that a once-rising star could now find himself having to compete to beat out others to gain the starting job back. Pendleton knows that once he is able to return to the field, it's not going to be easy and nothing will be given back to him.

"It's up to the head guy really," Pendleton said. "When I came back last year, when I went through this process, I came back with the ones. But with how good these guys are playing, I wouldn't be surprised if I had to come back and compete to get the job back. I wouldn't be surprised and don't know, but whatever it is, I'm excited for the challenge. If they beat me out, then that's how it is, but I'm up for the challenge. I'm coming back to be the guy that has the number one position, and that's what I plan on doing. We'll see what happens."

It says great things about the type of athletes the defense has when even a past starter isn't sure if he'll get his old job back. Two things are certain: one, Jordan Pendleton is determined to fight for playing time, and two, he believes this defense has the potential to be one of the best BYU's had in a long time.

"Absolutely, no question," Pendleton said about whether this year's defense can be one of BYU's best. "There is no question, and I think we have the chance to be one of the best defenses to ever play here. With that being said, it doesn't necessarily mean it will happen. As far as potential and as far as how hard we work, how well we like each other and how well we play for each other, it can absolutely happen."

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