Spring Practice Preview, The Defensive Line

TBS' "Man on the Spot," Brandon Gurney, begins the first in a series of articles previewing the BYU Cougar football team prior to the beginning of Spring camp. First up: the defensive line.

Cougar football fans are eagerly anticipating the beginning of Spring practice and are anxious to hear any news about their team. Unfortunately, BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall has announced that Spring practices will be closed to the public stating that although fall practice will again be open as it was last season that, "Spring practice is a time to really work and get things done. It's a personal time between coaches and players and for that reason it will be closed."

Cougar football fans will no doubt be disappointed at this news, but if the end result is greater team focus and unity resulting in fewer season losses, fans will gladly accept this change.

What will Coach Mendenhall's first Spring practice be like and how it will differ than in previous years? Anyone's guess is as good as the next person's. But rest assured that one aspect will predominant above all others—100% effort. This is and will continue to be the hallmark of Mendenhall's coaching philosophy.

Mendenhall has regaled rooms full of boosters since he was hired as BYU's new head football coach that his team was currently working in the off-season as hard as any football program in the country. This is sure to continue well into the Spring and thereafter.

Although his regimen and techniques are yet to be known one general aspect that any coach in any program encounters at the end of a season remains constant—filling voids created by the departures of players who contributed in any degree the previous season.

Spring practice is the time in which filling those voids left on the team begins in earnest. Coaches will use Spring practice to identify players that can help fill the voids left on the team. The hope of any coach is to not only fill the voids and but also improve upon any given position up until the first game in the fall. This will be my focus here as we prep our subscribers for Mendenhall's first Spring practice.

Defensive Line:

What better position to start with than the defensive line? Fortunately, this is an area of strength given the returning talent. There are a few areas of concern, but the defensive line should prove to be a position of strength for the 2005 Cougar football team. Fans will recall that the Cougars run a base 3-3-5, with only three down linemen needed, but Defensive Line Coach Steve Kaufusi constantly rotates players in to keep them fresh and active.

Voids at nose tackle: None.

Nose tackle can readily be defined as a position where BYU will excel given the fact that every single player that manned the position last season returns. Nose Tackle should not be a concern for most Cougar fans this coming season.

Returnees:

Daniel Marquardt-The 6-2, 315 senior will head into his final season with a wealth of experience as he heads the group that will anchor next year's defensive unit.

Daniel Marquardt has great lower-body strength and has shown to be very quick off the snap of the football during his past seasons at BYU. Marquardt was hampered with injuries during the first part of last season which affected his play, but he quickly recovered and showed why he is so critical to shoring up the middle of BYU's defense. The difference a healthy Daniel Marquardt provides to the defense was often stark last season and he looks to only improve this coming year.

Vince Feula-Few players fit into their position as well as Feula. Weighing in at 6-1, 300 pounds, Feula is a natural Nose Tackle. Feula was a junior college standout who played immediately after transferring to BYU.

While struggling a bit at first, Feula was really starting to play well toward the end of last season. He's especially good on running downs as he proves hard to move in the middle of the line which is paramount to any good nose tackle. Feula also showed surprising effectiveness in rushing the quarterback. Feula should only improve as he and Daniel Marquardt provide a very solid center in BYU's defense as the primary options at the nose tackle position.

Hala Paongo-the 6-2, 285 walk-on provided valuable time for the Cougar defense last season and should do the same this coming season. Paongo is Mendenhall's type of defender as he can always be relied upon to give maximum effort in any given situation.

Voids at defensive end:

Shawn Nua-the graduating senior was not only a great athlete, but also one of the more vocal leaders of the defense. Replacing that leadership and attitude won't be easy along with the outstanding play he provided the Cougar defense.

John Denney-He was arguably BYU's most consistent defensive lineman last season. Denney brought great athleticism to the position and his consistency will be sorely missed.

Returnees:

Manaia Brown-The 6-4, 300 lineman was slated early to be a nose tackle last season and would have no doubt excelled there, but was switched over to the end position shortly after fall camp commenced. Why? Because Manaia can do it all. He possesses the strength of a defensive tackle with the speed of a defensive end. He can stand you up, bull rush you or go around you as if you weren't there.

Consistency will be the key for Manaia Brown this coming Spring and into the following season. When he's on, there are few better than this outstanding athlete. He's been hampered by an infamous shoulder injury that occurred during a snow-mobile accident, but looks to put it behind him in becoming a completely dominant fixture on the Cougar defensive line.

Justin Carlson-Maddux-the 6-3, 253 junior is a former walk-on who will do anything his coach asks him to do and this has been the key to his success since Mendenhall arrived on the scene here in Provo. While Carlson-Maddux could be termed as an effort type player his freshman season, he showed good play at his natural defensive end position last season and looks to be a key component again this year.

Michael Marquardt-Daniel's younger brother will no doubt be a cog in the defensive line rotation this coming year. The key for the 6-4, 260 junior will be improving on his ability to stop the run. Michael Marquardt is extremely talented and should prove to be one of the top rush ends on passing downs this coming year.

T.J. Sitake-the 6-4, 255 senior has reportedly really come on strong during the off-season and looks to be part of the rotation along the defensive line this coming year. Sitake should now be fully recovered from his post-mission hangover and is raring to go.

Judd Anderton-Like Sitake, Anderton is raring to go after recently returning from his LDS mission. The 6-5, 260 sophomore showed flashes of brilliance throughout practices last season and looks to contribute to the defensive line rotation.

Others who will be looked at in the Spring include Jordan Chronister 6-4, 240 who comes to BYU by way of Eastern Arizona Community College, Kyle Tew 6-2, 250, and James Wheeler 6-5, 253.

Conclusion:

The center is solid with Daniel Marquardt, Feula and Paongo all coming back with a wealth of experience. The left side of the line is nailed down with Manaia Brown distancing himself from his nagging shoulder injury. The right side and rotational help for Manaia Brown should prove more than adequate with Michael Marquardt, Carlson-Maddux, Sitake and Anderton as the primary options. The defensive line should prove to be a strength for the 2005 Cougar football team and arguably the strength on the defensive side of the football.


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