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Practice-loving Zac Dawe vying for a starting spot on BYU’s defensive line

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PROVO — For BYU defensive lineman Zac Dawe, the end of spring practices was bittersweet.

“It’s one week closer to the season but it’s kind of sad,” he said. “I like being in full pads and having that contact. The time away from not being able to hit people is kind of boring. You always look forward to the real thing.”

During one of the final practices of the spring, Dawe answered questions from a reporter sporting a white jersey that was ripped and hung off of his shoulder pads like it had been worn by the Incredible Hulk.

“As you can tell, I love practice. It’s kind of like a game day,” said the 6-foot-3, 273-pound junior from Pleasant Grove. “We go out and in the trenches it’s full-go. It’s the same as game speed. It’s fun to get in there, get a little dirty and just play. I enjoy it.”

BYU’s coaches liked Dawe’s performance during the spring.

“Zac is playing like a starter right now,” said defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki.

Dawe is playing so well that senior defensive lineman Trajan Pili, who started 11 games last season, has been playing a little at linebacker.

“Zac came in last year just kind of learning things and competing with Trajan. Him coming along has really given us the opportunity to move Trajan around a little bit,” Tuiaki said. “Trajan can always come back and play end easily, just like Sione (Takitaki) could last year. But Zac Dawe is stepping up. In that room, he’s playing like one of the starters right now.”

As you can tell, I love practice. It’s kind of like a game day. We go out and in the trenches it’s full-go. It’s the same as game speed. It’s fun to get in there, get a little dirty and just play. I enjoy it. – BYU defensive lineman Zac Dawe

How does Dawe see his role on this team?

“I consider myself a hard worker. It’s being able to keep grinding and being an example of hard work,” he said. “As far as the scheme, I want to play stout in the run game and do my best to get to the quarterbacks as many times as I can.”

Dawe said the defensive line will be a strength of this year’s team.

“I’m excited about our D-line. The ones, twos and threes, we’re deep. Everyone’s working really hard. We have a lot of returnees from last year. Obviously, we miss Sione and Corbin (Kaufusi), guys that were key to our defense. We have a lot of guys that are stepping up. There are a lot of guys who are fresh and are coming in, making plays. I’m excited to see what we can do.”

For inspiration, Dawe can always look to his older brother, Parker, who walked on to the Cougar football team as an offensive lineman. He became a starter and earned a scholarship prior to his senior year in 2016.

“Parker’s an amazing example of work, faith and belief. Watching his story of coming here as a walk-on, gain 100 pounds, play offensive line — it was inspiring to me, that I can do anything I set mind to as long as I have hard work and belief,” Zac Dawe said. “He’s helped me off the field to set goals. On the field, he can see some tendencies. He coaches me up. In the spring game, he was like, ‘I can see your swim move coming from a mile away.’ He’s a good coach.”

Their close relationship can get a little rough sometimes.

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BYU defensive lineman Zac Dawe (99) cheers after the Cougars defeated the Arizona Wildcats 28-23 in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.

“He’s a lot of fun. He’s lost a lot of weight since he’s been done playing football. But he still thinks he can beat me one-on-one,” Zac Dawe said. “Over family dinner that doesn’t go over so well. He’ll start pushing and shoving me, trying to do a little trench work. I think he misses it.”

Zac Dawe will miss not being able to have practices between now and the end of July, when the Cougars reconvene for fall camp. He can’t wait for practices to start again.

“It’ll be a lot of fun,” he said, “to get back out here.”