Madarieta, now a senior, has settled comfortably back into his outside linebacker role after playing a lackluster season in 2002 at strong safety, a new position for him.
"Coming in as a new (line) backer, I didn't think it was going to be as big of a transition as it was, but it ended up being so. It kind of caught me by surprise once we got into the season and into the game. I didn't necessarily perform as well as I wanted to last year. It was a bigger jump than I thought it was going to be."
A projected starter this year in place of injured Paul Walkenhorst, who may be redshirted this season because of a back injury, Madarieta feels at home again in his more natural position. With the Cougars new unpredictable and aggressive style of defense, he feels his style of play is well suited to it.
"I love this defense. Last year, it was more of a sit, read and then you go from there. This year, you're coming from different angles – coming from inside out, outside in, so you're not just sitting back and trying to go from there, which I struggled with last year. I think this defense really helps the type of player that I am. It helps me out a lot."
Madarieta is determined to also provide senior leadership and valuable insights in reading coverages having also played in the BYU secondary.
"It's hard for me to replace a guy (Walkenhorst) like that, but I'm confident that I can get the job done."
Madarieta's progression during fall practice is obvious. In today's light scrimmage at the end of practice, he was able to get past the offensive line to record a sack or two against the first team offense. He did the same yesterday.
This defense is "incredible; it's crazy. I'll tell you, it's so much fun to play. I remember two years ago, when we played at New Mexico, thinking that would be a fun defense to play in just because guys are bluffing. ‘Hey, I'm coming here; I'm not coming here…' Coming from all directions and from all over the place trying to wreak havoc in the backfield. It's based on a lot of confusion."
During Monday's full scrimmage, Madarieta tied defensive end Brady Poppinga with a game-high two sacks each against the first team offense.
"It's hard a lot of times because you gotta really time your blitzes," said Madarieta. "Every once in a while, you get caught up in there and they know you're coming. But every once in a while, you get that timing right and you can get through there without them getting a hand on you, so it's nice. It's something you gotta kind of learn from the quarterbacks when you're going up against them. Kind of learn their cadence and how quick or how slow they go, so it's fun."
It appears now the outside linebackers are playing a more similar roll to that of middle linebackers.
"Sometimes we're coming inside on a guard or we're coming outside on a tackle. It's crazy. We're switching with the linebackers and doing all kinds of stuff. What our main responsibilities are is obviously to stop the run as a linebacker, but you know we're doing all kinds of stuff. We are definitely getting in there with the big guys, definitely a lot more than we were in the past."
All the confusion, intensity and the inherent aggressive nature of the defense has been invaluable for the offensive as well.
Madarieta noted "when we are out here competing as hard as we are, as hard as coach Mendenhall has us competing, I think it definitely helps our offense. We're running around, we're going 100 percent and it's not going to be a surprise to our offense when they come out and play an aggressive team like that, which is good."
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