"I came in at the end of July and just had to give it my all and see what happened," said Lovely following Tuesday's practice. "I was fortunate to play some, but I really didn't feel that I grasped the concept and what I was supposed to do at all times last year. The 3-3-5 is a unique defensive scheme, so it takes a while to adjust. At least it did for me."
"Gary was a bit lost in space last year in regards to his drops and his field awareness, but I'm seeing great strides made by him so far this year," said Coach Bronco Mendenhall.
"It's a system based on effort and that's what I'm all about," said Lovely. "It's a system where speed is very important and I feel that speed is one of my best attributes. I'm just doing whatever I can to help the team. It's all about the team and the team effort. If one player puts forth an amazing effort in practice, then it starts a chain-reaction and we all want to be the guy who starts the chain-reaction, not the guy who reacts to it. That's my goal and the goal of all of the linebackers. We're a tight group and we're going to dominate."
Lovely's team-first mentality is readily apparent when asking him about the punt he returned for a touchdown last season. Lovely credited all the other players involved before acknowledging himself. "It wasn't about me," commented Lovely. "I was just fortunate to be around great guys who made the play. Without [Dennis] Pitta's and Riley's [Weber] effort, I wouldn't have returned it for a touchdown. So they deserve much more credit than I do."
Lovely is completely sold on Coach Mendenhall's system. "It's the perfect system for me and for my abilities," said Lovely. "There is no other system out there that suits me as a player better. I am just thankful to have the chance to play for a coach like Coach Mendenhall and for a program like BYU."
After the departure of Lovely's brother Greg during the off-season, a lot of fans imagined that Gary would soon follow. In reality, Lovely never even consider the possibility.
"Oh, I miss my brother a lot," replied Lovely. "I wish he was here. Tt's been a challenge to adjust to being here without him. However, leaving the program with him is something that never crossed my mind. Not for one second. This is where I need to be and this is the system where I can best succeed. I'm totally committed to giving it my all."
Coach Mendenhall has taken note during the early going of spring practice. He commented: "I like [Gary] he's fast and he's athletic. He's best at blitzing. When we send him he goes hard and I think he's developed well. I expect good things from him this year."
Lovely enters spring football looking to play his part in contributing to a very promising linebacking corps. "I feel very comfortable with the system now," Lovely said. "A lot more than last year, that's for sure. I'm fortunate to have great guys around me to play with. Guys like Cameron Jensen, or as we call him, ‘the General,' are great guys to play with. We're looking to become a dominate unit and lead the team."
Coach Mendenhall agrees with Lovely that the linebackers will be a strength this year. "I think the front will be our strength," commented Mendenhall. "Cameron Jensen is obviously a team leader and a very productive player who is coming back. I really like his attitude and who he is as a person."
Regarding some of the other options at linebacker, Mendenhall stated: "Markell Staffieri was a walk-on last year who is just learning how to play the spot. He was a safety before his mission who tries hard with just enough ability."
Regarding Aaron Wagner, Bronco said: "He's a transfer for Washington State who was on the two-deep for them. He's an exceptional athlete who is still learning how I want him to play and how I want his commitment level to be, but he's very athletic and I look for good things from him.
"Walkenhorst moved back to linebacker today. Matt Ah You and Gary Lovely are back. We're waiting on Luettgerodt. We're waiting to see how he recovers from his injury. If he's ready to go, then he'll play, if not, then he has a redshirt year that we'll use. I like the depth of our linebackers and I think they'll be a strong unit for us this year."