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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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BYU's Mendenhall on 2011 season: "I like our chances."

I wrote something for today's newspaper about the Cougars' secondary, which will have to replace three starters -- Andrew Rich, Brian Logan and Brandon Bradley. The story didn't make the printed paper, but can be found online by going here.

You can also read more about Idaho prep quarterback Tanner Mangum's commitment to BYU here.

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As you know if you watched the video I posted from yesterday's practice, coach Bronco Mendenhall seems really happy with how his defense is coming along.

For that matter, offensive coordinator Brandon Doman is also impressed. Tuesday, Doman called it the best defense the Cougars have had in quite some time.

"They are really good. It is the best defense I have seen BYU have in maybe 10 years. They are talented, they have a ton of depth. They are big up front. We've added some depth to the defensive line, and some real size and athleticism up there that we have not had in a long time.

Then we have added some core linebackers that can play. We have had a couple of position changes. One of the guys I am most impressed with right now is Mike Hague. He moved from running back to strong safety. He is doing a fantastic job. They have added some depth over there that is going to make them really good."

Whenever USC transfer Uona Kaveinga's name is mentioned, Mendenhall glows. He said Kaveinga, who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, has already emerged as the leader on defense.

"The USC transfers so far are doing really well," Mendenhall said. "Starting with Uona Kaveinga, he has been here longer. He has been here an entire year and he is currently THE leader on our defense.

I have been really impressed with him. He was voted student of the week today, too. So he is doing well in both capacities.

Hebron [Fangupo] is transitioning into the culture. I don't think he has ever worked this hard, and I don't think he likes it too much sometimes. But when he chooses to play, he is pretty dang good.

Then Uani Unga, from Oregon State, he is similar to what Kaveinga was last year. He will redshirt this year. I really like what I see from him as well. So they are all choosing BYU for the right reasons."

More on Kaveinga's leadership from Mendenhall:

"He loves football. He absolutely loves football. If you watch him on the sideline, how animated he is -- any good play, no matter when it is in practice, he just seems to see it all, and he loves the game. There's a phrase -- he's a football kid -- that the coaches use a lot.

I bet he has studied it from the time he was in kindergarten. He just loves the game, and he is really, really smart, and very intuitive. He comes off the field and sees things that a lot of times as coaches -- we have had a lot of training -- that we just barely see. He just loves it."

Mendenhall said it became apparent from watching Kaveinga on the scout team last year that he was a special player.

"The offensive staff, probably every week last year, told me, man, wait until you see Uona, and you get him on your side. And then on all the special teams, running down on kickoffs, I don't think anyone beat him down the field the entire year.

Once he gets to come out here, it is like his playground. He just loves it. It is fun to be around guys like that."

Mendenhall was asked whether the 2011 team will be the most talented one he has had in his seven seasons as head coach.

"Mmmm. ... I like our chances," he said.

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Check back here later today for coverage of the 1 p.m. news conference in Provo in which BYU will announce that basketball coach Dave Rose has signed a new contract.

Rose is also expected to talk about the situation with Brandon Davies, the situation with assistant coach Dave Rice interviewing for the UNLV job, and the Cougars' nonconference schedule next season.

The Cougars finished the season ranked No. 13 in the final USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, although this little blurb accompanying the rankings erroneously says Kyle Collinsworth will be back. Collinsworth will leave in a few months on an LDS Church mission to Russia.



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