May 17, 2022

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BYU football: Departures leave Cougars thin on defensive line

BYU football: Departures leave Cougars thin on defensive line

Key 2020 contributors and starters Khyiris Tonga, Zac Dawe and Bracken El Bakri are in the NFL, at minimum for the time becoming, and growing star Seleti Fevaleaki is in the transfer portal.

In other words, BYU’s defensive line in 2021 figures to be the most inexperienced place team on the workforce. Of the 9 defensive linemen on the depth chart the Cougars concluded the period with past yr when they pummeled Central Florida in the Boca Raton Bowl, only 5 are again.

Is that retaining defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki up at night time?

Not definitely.

“I sleep quite well,” Tuiaki said at BYU’s Soccer Media Working day last month in his acquainted, laid-back model.

Of class, that was in advance of news broke that Fevaleaki was in the portal. The redshirt freshman returned missionary from Centennial Superior in Corona, California, appeared in 10 game titles all through BYU’s 11-1 season, producing six tackles and a sack (against Navy).

Even now, Tuiaki hinted at the time that his defense could be dropping an anticipated contributor shortly, and Fevaleaki was not on the submit-spring depth chart dispersed on June 17. Fevaleaki, who was recruited by Tuiaki and head coach Kalani Sitake when they were at Utah and then Oregon Point out, but followed them to Provo right after a church mission to Saint Louis, Missouri, experienced been in the application considering that 2017 and was ultimately beginning to exhibit his possible.

“One of the young children that played for us (very last 12 months) and was heading to be a truly great participant may not be with us,” Tuiaki reported. “But that is nevertheless up in the air, so I really don’t want to chat about him.”

Assuming he does not return, Fevaleaki will be missed — particularly throughout a year when BYU’s depth will be tested early. The Cougars open up the period on Sept. 4 in opposition to Arizona in Las Vegas, then host Utah, Arizona Point out and South Florida on successive Saturdays right before enjoying at Utah State on Friday, Oct. 1.

Oct is just as complicated, with Boise State, Baylor, Washington Point out and Virginia on the docket that thirty day period, together with the Aggies.

Halting the operate will be tricky against all those groups — in particular the Utes and Sun Devils — and BYU is nowhere around as equipped to do that as it was last calendar year. There are move-speeding problems as effectively.

“No issue, we are youthful there,” Tuiaki claimed. “There are a large amount of younger gamers that don’t have a great deal of taking part in time that are heading to have to move up.”

At least the young guys will get a good deal of interest from the coaching staff members.

When Sitake included linebackers coach Kevin Clune in February, offering the Cougars a fifth coach on the defensive facet of the ball, he moved safeties coach Preston Hadley to defensive ends mentor so Tuiaki could emphasis on the inside defensive linemen when he is not coordinating the overall protection.

“We’ve got some talent there, but not a lot of knowledge,” Hadley said in March. “There’s a ton that goes into remaining a great pass-rusher.”

Redshirt junior Lorenzo Fauatea and “super senior” Uriah “Lopa” Leiataua are detailed as the beginning defensive ends on the depth chart.

“If there is just about anything that is going to retain me up at evening, it is that we are youthful at the basic safety location, and skinny at the D conclusion place,” Tuiaki claimed.

Coaches are grateful that Leiataua, who is 25, selected to return. Leiataua, recruited out of Compton, California, by previous BYU mentor Bronco Mendenhall, gained his diploma more than a 12 months back. But a fractured leg minimize shorter his senior period very last year, and he determined to use the NCAA’s “extra year” exception because of to COVID-19.

“Unfinished enterprise,” is the cause Leiataua provides for coming again. “Personally, I sense like I am a fantastic player, a proficient participant. I also sense that I have not lived up to those anticipations I have. They are no a person else’s expectations but my own.”

Leiataua claimed he will get the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) subsequent month in hopes of likely to law college if an NFL vocation doesn’t get the job done out.

Redshirt freshman Tyler Batty is the other go-rusher on the roster with knowledge. Batty obtained off to a sensational commence very last calendar year with 4 sacks in his initially 4 online games, but an damage derailed his to start with season in Provo just after a church mission to Madrid, Spain.

“We are hoping for a major 12 months from Tyler Batty,” Tuiaki stated. “He’s obtained a good deal of talent, if he can continue to be wholesome.”

Batty and long snapper Austin Riggs turned the first BYU football players to indication NIL promotions very last week when they agreed to endorse a business (Balmshot) that helps make lip balm and puts it in used shotgun shells.

On the inside, the Cougars will depend on redshirt junior Earl Tuioti-Mariner, former stroll-on Gabe Summers, former offensive lineman Caden Haws and Atunaisa Mahe, a redshirt sophomore from West Jordan who battled back from a blood clot issue that threatened his soccer job.

“They are all on board. They want to do it. They want to be very good,” Tuiaki explained. “But is usually awesome to have a group with recreation expertise, and at defensive line we really do not have a good deal.”

Other defensive tackles to continue to keep an eye on include things like Josh Larsen, John Nelson, Alden Tofa and Blake Mangelson.

Defensive ends pushing for a place in the rotation are Hunter Greer, Kade Pupunu, Alema Pilimai and Fisher Jackson.

“We will be Ok,” Tuiaki reported. “We bought kids who want to be in this article, and want to perform hard and lead.”