Dick Harmon: Brandon Ogletree embodies spirit of BYU defense

Published: Sunday, Nov. 11 2012 8:00 a.m. MST

Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Brandon Ogletree, 44, congratulates teammates as Brigham Young University faces Idaho State in NCAA football in Provo, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

A BYU defense, probably one for the ages, left LaVell Edwards Stadium for the final time this season.

Yes, I know, it was an effort against a limited foe in problem-plagued Idaho Saturday night. But from South Bend to Atlanta, from Salt Lake City to Provo, their numbers have done the talking for them, again on a late Saturday night.

In BYU’s lopsided win, you had Kyle Van Noy forcing a fumble, Spencer Hadley picking up a bad Idaho hike for a touchdown and senior reserve corner Robbie Buckner. Ezekiel Ansah put on a helmet-popping show. The Cougars didn’t register a shutout like they did against Hawaii, but it was workman-like, and Bronco Mendenhall emptied his bench.

Mendenhall will miss his seniors on this unit.

Since taking over the reins as his own defensive coordinator after a loss to Utah State 405 days ago, Mendenhall has established two straight seasons of a top 10 defense.

It carries his brand. It’s stingy, physical, it attacks, it is very good against the run. The fanatical swarming to the ball is an established Mendenhall trademark.

No defensive player of the past two years embodies this more than senior linebacker and captain Brandon Ogletree. He’s a guy who plays like his pants are on fire, and Saturday night, Ogletree exited the stadium playing the same as he always has: Burying the RPM needle.

Few Mendenhall defenders work as hard as Ogletree. It would be hard to find any that play harder down after down. And I’d press anyone to find a Mendenhall defensive player who knows more about BYU’s schemes than this guy.

Ogletree symbolically represents Mendenhall’s type of player. He’s dedicated to a fault, works his tail off, and his football intelligence is off the charts.

Recruited in the class of 2006, Ogletree was the last prospect Mendenhall offered a scholarship to that year, almost passed over. He got his BYU papers as the last recruit, despite a resume as a two-time All-State 4A player out of McKinney, Texas. As good of a football player as Ogletree was in high school, he was a better basketball player, the best in his school. He was good enough of a football player to play with the varsity as a sophomore. In Texas, that is a very big deal.

Ogletree grew up in a family where he was the only son. He has seven sisters. His father Mark made a point of playing basketball and football with his son every day and even taught him to bat left-handed. The son couldn’t get enough of it and developed a competitive streak that kind of scared his loved ones.

He hated to lose. Put him in a game situation, whether Tiddley Winks or a sandlot game, and he became a crazy guy.

“We tried to get him to play basketball against his twin sisters and that didn’t work,” said Mark. “He just wanted to beat them like a hundred to nothing.”

Ogletree began playing football (flag) in the first grade in Mesa, Ariz. His father coached him with Dan Shreeve, who made the trip from Arizona Saturday night to watch Ogletree’s last college game in Provo. “He came to Brandon’s first game and then this last one,” said Mark.

Both Shreeve and Mark noticed early, in Pop Warner football, what a great football mind Ogletree possessed. He’d yell at the other kids when they missed their assignments, and their parents would yell at him to stop and mind his own business.

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