BYU Spring Prospectus: D-Line
2011 marks the most depth and talent in the front seven that Bronco Mendenhall has had to work with in his seven seasons as head coach at BYU.
If the Cougar secondary is solidified this coming season, Mendenhall could have something special brewing on defense in Provo.
Here is at look at the defensive line as spring practice is set to begin in Provo next week…
Men in the Middle
This spring will give coaches a good look at USC transfer Hebron Fangupo (6-1, 310 Sr.) and redshirt freshman Travis Tuiloma (6-2, 316 Fr.) at nose tackle.
That’s because Romney Fuga (6-2, 307 Jr.) and Jordan Richardson (6-3, 271 Jr.) will be out this spring still recovering from knee injuries that ended both player’s seasons in 2010. Richardson may be ready to go come fall camp, while Fuga’s return for 2011 is still in question.
Fangupo has one year of eligibility remaining after being allowed to leave the USC program without sitting out a year because of NCAA sanctions against the Trojans. He played in seven games last season as a reserve defensive tackle after missing most of 2009 due to a broken ankle sustained in the fourth game of the year. He transferred to USC in 2009 from Mt. San Antonio College.
This spring will go a long way toward showing what Fangupo can bring to the table in the middle of Bronco’s defense.
Tuiloma is a very talented player who has a bright future in Provo. He is extremely strong and should be able to rotate in at nose tackle this year. His ability to contribute will become more critical if both Fuga and Richardson are unable to return to full strength in the fall.
BYU will receive the services of returning missionary Ian Dulan (6-1, 255 Sr.) at the nose this fall as well. Dulan had three years of playing experience under his belt before leaving on his mission. He made an immediate impact on the 10th-ranked BYU defense as a seventeen-year-old freshman in 2006.
The Cougars lose Vic So’oto to graduation but have plenty of depth and talent to rotate in at defensive end in 2011.
Eathyn Manumaleuna (6-2, 295 Jr.) can play both nose tackle and defensive end, however Bronco prefers to employ his talents at DE. Eathyn has 21 starts to his credit in his first two seasons at BYU and will be a leading candidate to start on one side of the defensive line.
Matt Putnam (6-6, 271 Sr.) will enter spring drills penciled in as the other starter at defensive end.
Matt came on strong last year, starting nine games for the Cougars after having his commitment to the game questioned before the beginning of the season. His height, long arms and anticipation make him a difficult player to throw passes over. He had seven batted passed last season to go with his 31 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks and two quarterback hurries.
Thomas Bryson (6-5, 235 So.) and Graham Rowley (6-4, 261, So.) will help provide a strong rotation for Mendenhall at defensive end. Both players are excellent athletes and saw time on the field as true freshmen in 2010.
Bryson played in 12 games last year and it will be interesting to see if he has been able to add some bulk to his athletic frame this spring. Rowley saw action in eight games in 2010 and has an extremely bright future on the Cougar D-line. He was undecided on a mission coming in last year as a freshman, so his appearance on the spring roster seems to indicate that he won’t be heading out — at least this year.
This spring begins a position change for former tight end Mike Muelhmann (6-4, 240 So.). Mike was caught in the log jam at tight end and was the odd man out. He has the ability to develop as a contributor at DE, having excelled at the position in high school. His development will be intriguing to keep an eye on.
Another interesting prospect at defensive end in Ezekial Ansah (6-6, 254 Jr.). The walk-on from Ghana, Africa has freakish athletic ability but is still learning the game of American football. His progress will be watched with interest as spring camp unfolds.
The Cougars welcome three defensive end prospects from high school in the fall.
Moses Kaumatule (6-2, 240 Fr.), Baker Pritchard (6-2, 240 Fr.) and Stehly Reden (6-6, 235 Fr.) should have the benefit of sitting and learning during their first seasons as Cougars. Moses and Stehly have definite mission plans following this coming year.
In our next article we will preview an exciting group of linebackers that are expected to be the biggest strength of the BYU defense in 2011.
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