The Strength of the Defense

It takes a pretty strong unit to bring about a change to a formation that a defensive coordinator has used for years. Such is the case with this year's corps of linebackers at BYU. They are the strength of the defense without question.

"They're fast and they're aggressive," said head coach/defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall about his current crop of linebackers. "They warranted a defensive coach who is passionate about a certain scheme to change that scheme primarily because of my confidence in them. That in and of itself should tell you what I think of them."

"It's competitive out there, probably more so than at anytime since I've been here," said senior middle linebacker Cameron Jensen. "There are so many guys on this team that can come in and we won't miss a beat. It would be a mistake not to get the guys we have at linebacker not on the field."

Eight is Enough

"We have eight capable players at linebacker who I wouldn't hesitate to use at this point in any situation," said Coach Mendenhall. "Markell Staffieri, Chris Bolden, Bryan Kehl, Kelly Poppinga, of course Cameron Jensen, Dustin Gabriel along with some other along with Aaron Wagner when he comes back are all guys we have a lot of confidence in playing in most situations."

"We have eight people who can start anywhere," said Jensen, "I mean, how do you not use all eight of us when they're capable? That's the mentality that Coach Mendenhall took and that's why he's such a great coach. He knows how to play to his strengths."

Sharing the Spot

The middle has been Cameron Jensen's to roam over the past two seasons. His was the responsibility to clog up the middle, bring pressure from the middle, find the right gap to fill in the middle and basically do everything else that occurs backing the middle of the defensive line. While he accomplished this admirably in the 3-3-5 scheme, Jensen does not mind sharing the responsibility in the 3-4 formation being instituted this spring.

"Are you kidding me? It's great; I love it," wsaid Jensen about sharing his turf. "I love having the outsides on the line creating a five man front, it opens up a lot. In the 3-3-5 there was a body on me every play and that's not so much the case anymore. Having Markell (Staffieri) there to help me take on blocks or to fast-load with is awesome."

In for the Kehl

One of the four outside linebackers mentioned by Jensen that will help to keep blockers off of him in the five man front that is helped formed by two outside backers is Bryan Kehl. With a season to get back in shape since returning from the mission field, Kehl is raring to go and earning some rave reviews from teammates and coaches after one week of spring practice.

"Ten pounds makes a huge difference," said Kehl, "Just being able to add that weight is something I've really noticed that has helped my game. I knew it would help, but not as much as it did today."

Last year Kehl coupled above-average speed coupled with good pursuit abilities in the open field. This year, Kehl is working toward being a wee-rounded player by practicing how to deal with blockers. >P> "I can take on blockers so much better now with that added weight," said Kehl, "Last year if I had a blocker get on me I'd be done in most cases, that's not going to be the case this year. That's the biggest difference in my game and I just hope to compete and help the team as much as possible."

"Bryan Kehl is just simply more removed from his mission," said Coach Mendenhall. "He's close to a year removed and that's the difference with him this year. He's bigger, he's faster and he's returning to what he was before. He's smart, he's aggressive and he runs well. What the mission shaped him into in regards to leadership is fantastic and that is maybe what I'm most impressed with."

"Bryan Kehl is going to help us out a ton," said Jensen, "He's so much stronger this year and he's going to really help getting pressure around the edges while taking on blocks that will maybe free us up. In other situations we'll be the ones taking on blocks and he looks to get in the backfield. Bryan (Kehl) can do it all now and we'll be that much better on defense because of it."

Practice Note

Although he was barely distinguishable from the other wide receivers, true freshman McKay Jacobson is starting to show why he was so highly touted coming out of Southlake Carroll high school in Texas. Jacobson has increased his impact with every practice at the ZR position.

On Friday practice, Jacobson got behind the coverage on two separate occasions for long touchdown passes while every pattern he ran in which the ball was thrown to him ended in a completion.

Said Jacobson: "The first day I didn't know what to expect, but now that I know I'm able to do some more things. I have a ton to learn still and I'm learning everyday. Just knowing what to expect in a division one practice is huge."

So what has Jacobson learned so far?

"The little things are so much more important in college," said Jacobson. "That's the biggest thing I've learned so far. You can get away with a lot in high school that you can't in college. Just running more precise routes and doing every single little thing necessary is the biggest adjustment."

Jacobson is still enjoying himself despite the increased demands of D-I dootball.

"Oh, I'm having a blast," said Jacobson. "I love football. I love BYU, being a part of this is a dream come true. I just want to play. I love to play, I love to compete. So yeah, this is great."

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