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2014 Outlook: BYU Defensive Line

23 January 2014 Brett Richins
BYU DE Brandon Kaufusi will carry the mantle of leader for the BYU defensive line. (BYU photo/Jaren Wilkey)

BYU DE Brandon Kaufusi will carry the mantle of leader for the BYU defensive line. (BYU photo)

The BYU Cougars lose an outstanding player on the defensive line for 2014, but there will still be a lot of talent for Bronco Mendenhall and defensive coordinator Nick Howell to work with.

Eathyn Manumaleuna leaves a big hole for BYU to fill for next season. He played both nose tackle and defensive end during his stellar career as a Cougar, and his versatility allowed Mendenhall to do a lot of things with his defensive fronts.

Manumaleuna was injured during the Georgia Tech game last season, and never really returned to his dominating form. His injury was a contributing factor in the struggles BYU experienced against the run late in the season.

In addition to Eathyn, the Cougars also lose reserve defensive linemen Merrill Taliauli and Austin Holt. Taliauli leaves next month for a mission to Washington, while Holt was informed that his scholarship would not be renewed even though he still has one year of eligibility left.

The Cougars do return a number of defensive linemen who either started or saw considerable playing time last year.

Among those is defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (6-7, 282 Jr.), who finished 2013 with 37 tackles, four sacks, and interception and an impressive six pass break ups. His length and athleticism allows him to knock down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage.

With the departure of Manumaleuna, Bronson becomes the leader of the defensive line. He has NFL-caliber talent but needs to take his game to the next level this coming season and become even more productive.

Remington Peck (6-4, 250 Jr.) also returns at the other defensive end spot for 2014. Peck had a productive sophomore season as well, recording 38 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries. There are some talented ends coming into the program that Remington will have to fend off for playing time, but he’ll surely see a good amount of action once again.

Former JC transfer Marques Johnson also returns next year and will compete for the starting role at nose tackle. Marques rotated at the nose last season and had 31 tackles in his first year as a Division-1 player. He’ll have his hands full in 2014 trying to fend off a number of up-and-coming young players in the middle of the BYU defensive line.

Redshirt freshmen Tuni Kanuch (6-2, 285 Fr.) and JonRyheem Peoples (6-6, 339 Fr.) are two interesting talents who will compete for playing time at nose tackle.

Kanuch was likely to see a lot of action last season before he went down with a torn chest muscle. He was a highly-touted recruit when he signed with the Cougars in 2010 and has been considered the future at nose tackle for a while now.

Peoples’ athleticism is off the charts for a player of his size and the film of him returning kicks in high school created a great deal of buzz among BYU fans during his recruitment. He redshirted last year while dealing with nagging injuries and learning what it takes to be a Division-1 college player. He may have the ability to play at defensive end as well.

Another player that will be a factor at nose tackle is Travis Tuiloma (6-2, 320 So.), who returns from his mission to Samoa in time to compete this year. Travis played in every game as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and recorded 12 tackles.

Also returning from missions are defensive ends Graham Rowley (6-4, 280 Jr.), Troy Hinds (6-5, 225 Fr.) and Baker Pritchard (6-3, 277).

Rowley saw playing time right out of the gate as both a true freshman and sophomore, and had a total of 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks in his first two seasons. He made three starts during his sophomore year and figures to make a considerable contribution in 2014, although he still has a redshirt year available to him.

Hinds was one of the highest-rated recruits in the West when he signed with BYU in 2012. He narrowed down his college choices to BYU, Utah, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Cal and Stanford before deciding to become a Cougar. He could play either defensive end or linebacker depending on how much weight he has put on during his mission to Mississippi.

Pritchard was one of four Bingham Miners to sign with BYU in 2011. He’s the younger, but bigger, brother of BYU running back Iona Pritchard. He redshirted in 2011 prior to serving his mission to Hawaii. He should be able to provide solid depth on the defensive line.

Baker’s former teamate at Bingham, Kensi Tausinga (6-1, 285 Fr.) also returns from a mission. Tausinga served in Fiji after grayshirting his first year out of high school and will likely play nose tackle at BYU. Not only was he an outstanding football player, but he was also a heavy weight state wrestling champion.

Other players currently on the roster that could make contributions on the defensive line include Michael Doman (6-4, 240 Jr.), Logan Taele (6-2, 251 Jr.), Theodore King (6-2, 252 So.), Thomas Laulile (6-3, 270 Fr.) and Kalolu Utu (6-1,300 Jr.)

Notable defensive linemen currently serving missions, or expected to begin serving out straight out of high school, include Moses Kaumatule (9/14), Taumata Tofi (4/15), Tico Fuga (2016), Earl Mariner (2016) and Zac Dawe (2016).

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