As Salt Lake City (MI) Highland head coach Brody Benson reflects upon the 2013 football season his disappointment over his team's 7-5 finish is unmistakable. But so too though is his pride over the performance of his star player Bryan Mone. The future Wolverine finished his high school career in strong fashion, even if his stats didn’t bear that out.
“Bryan played well for us,” said Benson. ”He got nicked up that second game of the season for us, so there was a two or three game kind of lull. Week three we only had him in there for 12-15 reps that game. We ended up winning the ball game, but it was just trying to weigh the risk and reward and there was really no need to play him. I think coming back he was a little bit sore for weeks five and six, then after that he started rolling. Teams keyed on him and everybody had to game plan and scheme against him. He ended up getting double teamed and tripled team quite a bit defensively. His numbers were not as good as they were his junior year. He had 50 tackles and 4-1/2 sacks. When you look at the impact of the rest of the defensive line I think what it did was that everybody was keying on him and it freed up Pita (Tonga) who ended up with 10-1/2 sacks. Cody Hilborn ended up with five sacks. Jaden Palauni who was a sophomore for us ended up with six sacks. I think with teams focusing and game planning towards (Mone), it opened up some stuff for some other guys. I feel that he was very much an impact player for us. His role kind of changes based on what teams did.”
That ability to affect the game despite the attention directed his way was the most obvious sign of growth in Mone’s game. It's a result of his increased appreciation for the technical aspects of his position.
“The number one thing that I seen was him learning how to take on double teams and defeating double teams… to still be able to move the line of scrimmage,” Benson explained. “Some guys when they get double teamed will stand up or try to make a pile. We’ve worked really hard with Bryan to focus his attention with one and splitting the double team. I think he definitely did that. I thought his overall bag of tricks, his tool set increased. He started using his hands a lot more. Last year it was almost like he wouldn’t just flat out bull rush anybody… he just wouldn’t use his power to get after people. This year when he wasn’t getting two or three people on him he had to do that. I think that was something he got better at… just flipping that switch and just going. I was happy to see that…where he just basically would turn his attention to one guy and worry about kicking that guy’s (butt). I like to see that. I think overall Bryan has gotten better.”
One part of Mone’s game that is still a work in progress is conditioning. The four-star lineman had been working diligently to trim his waistline heading into the season, but that effort was derailed a bit by his aforementioned injury. When he arrives in Ann Arbor next month Benson expects the battle with the bulge to finally be won.
“I think when he got nicked up he was a little bit sedentary for a week or so,” recalled Benson. “His weight got to be an issue. Right now he is about 320, so he hasn’t fluctuated that much. Once he gets back there with Coach Wellman and they start working with him, you’ll really see him be able to change his body style. I think he is always going to be 300+, but I think he is always going to be a little bit more explosive. When they start monitoring his food intake and stuff like that, I am very excited to see what they will be able to do with him once they get him back there.”
“I think (the Michigan coaches) are going to be able to get him in pretty good shape. Since the season has been done, he has been working out five days a week. He is going to play in the Under Armour game, and then he starts school the 8th (of January). He knows that he is not going to have a whole lot of time and their expectation is that he is going to go in there and get in shape fairly quick. I think Bryan has never been one to shy away from work. I don’t think it is going to be a conditioning factor. I think it is going to be largely learning a little bit more. Obviously, you go to a level like Michigan and you’re definitely going to be playing a whole lot complex more defenses and stuff like that. I think him learning the system and him learning the expectations for him are probably going to be his greatest hurdles to overcome right at first.”
One part of the transition that won’t be much of an obstacle is winning over his new teammates. Mone’s selflessness has always made him a favorite of players and coaches alike. It’s a character trait that stems from a home life spent helping care for his disabled brother.
“Bryan is a great teammate and he cares about the guys he plays with,” said Benson. “Every team is going to preach family, but I really think that Bryan takes it to heart. I think he has true compassion for his teammates. He wants to see everybody succeed. It is not just about him. In fact, Bryan I think a lot of times would like to be out of the spotlight and highlight a lot of the other players more than him. I think that has to do with how he was raised. He is a very humble kid. He comes from humble surroundings and he has done things that a lot of 17-year-old and 18-year-old kids will never have to worry about and do in their life as far as taking care of somebody. He has helped his family take care of his brother. That says a lot about him as a person and his character. When you look at from a team standpoint, when the young man is willing to do that and put others before himself, as a coach that is what you want as far as a teammate… that guy who is unselfish and he is going to put the needs of the team before his own needs. I think that is something that Bryan has definitely displayed since he has been here with us at Highland, and I think that is something that he will continue with his family at Michigan.”