All Eyes Are on You

With the graduation of Manaia Brown, Vince Feula, Daniel Marquardt, T.J. Sitaki, Justin Maddux and Kyle Tew, all eyes will be on the new personnel on the defensive front this spring. Defensive end Kyle Luekenga is not intimidated by the scrutiny, however.

Monday's practice featured drills that were geared more for the skill positions, than the big men up front. Coach Mendenhall and his assistants directed drills of all sorts. New defensive back's coach Jaime Hill, brought a few new drills of his own that focused on endurance, agility and technique. The offensive and defensive lines did not square off in competitive head-to-head drills like the secondary and wide receivers.

Coach Mendenhall and Coach Kaufusi did not let the D-line get off easy, however. The big boys were running grueling pursuit drills in which their endurance was put to the test. Some of the older more experienced players faired better than those getting an introduction to BYU football.

As one of only two players who return from last year's squad, Hala Paongo appears to have added some more bulk to his frame. The other returning D-lineman, Kyle Luekenga, bulked up. Both Paongo and Leukenga will be called upon to be major contributors knowing fully well what is at stake for the D-line this year.

"Well the D-line, as everybody knows, is young but we are strong," said Luekenga. "The good thing and the main thing is that we are driven, which is a good thing for Coach Mendenhall's defense.

"One of the things we worked hard on this year was mostly our legs. I know last year my legs weren't there because I never squatted in high school. During this first practice I could tell my legs were a lot more there now. I could plant more, cut more and I just felt a lot stronger which helped me to be stronger throughout today's practice."

Manning the defensive end position at 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds, Luekenga feels there is a bit of a twist in the D-line philosophy to go along with the new 3-4-4 defense which better suits his strengths as a player, and those who will be playing along side him, much better.

"The new defense, the 3-4-4, is a lot better for me and Hala," Luekenga said, "because we're more run stoppers than pass rushers I guess you can say."

Although Leukenga received some sparse playing time last year, he feels the experience contributed greatly to his development and his ability to meet the expectations that coaches have for him.

"I would say I've come to practice 100 percent improved," Luekenga said. "Last year was my first year and playing out of a three point stance, so I would say my progression from last year is 100 percent different. My knowledge of the D-line and how to read offensive linemen and my feet have all improved.

"I took a lot of false steps last year that I didn't really know about, so knowing just stuff like that has helped me to improve my game and to be a better D-lineman. One year makes a big difference. The one thing I've also been working on is my hands. I guess last year I had what you call spaghetti hands. At least that's what the coaches call them, so I need to work on my hand technique first then bring my hips and my feet and I should be good to go."

After practice, Luekenga worked on a few techniques with BYU offensive linemen Jake Kuresa.

"Right now I'm working on my spin moves," Luekenga said. "I've been talking to Jake about it. He's been giving me some tips on how to make the O-linemen move one way and you spin another way without falling down. I just want to be aggressive."

As BYU's defensive line prepares for the 2006 season, the eyes and ears of BYU fans around the country will alert to the progress of the new defensive line. Luekenga welcomes those expectations.

"We know what's at stake, but the kind of group we are, we're up for anything," Luekenga said. "We'll work hard and we have a lot of confidence that we'll accomplish what we need to get done. This is really my first year of college where I won't be standing on the sidelines like last year. It's on this year, and I'm either going to do it or not, so it's on now. There really isn't a lot of pressure. It's all about having fun. If you play football and can't handle to pressure then you shouldn't play. It's all about having fun while you get the job done. I for sure wouldn't be putting myself through all those pursuit drills if it wasn't fun."

Total Blue Sports Top Stories