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BYU Spring Prospectus: D-Line

10 March 2011 Brett Richins 16 Comments

BYU DE Matt Putnam (BYU Photo)

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 Bookends

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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  • justin said:

    how many nose tackles does bronco like to have? with fangupo only having one year to play it would make sense to let him play and be backed up by travis and possibly ethan if injury strikes. we have other DE’s that can take ethan’s spot. this would allow fuga and richardson to RS 2011 (is this possible?) and make sure they are both 100%.

    or do you think richardson really can be 100% before fall camp? it just seems like we have some depth there and i’d hate to rush these two talented, big guys back too early when they have 2 years left to play. i’d hate to waste one of those years playing injured or not fully recovered.

  • LanceWArchibald said:

    I am so pumped for Fangupo! Keep us updated on how Fangupo looks during spring camp. We will have a top 5 run defense nationally this year, partly because of all of the cream puffs on our schedule but mostly because of Bronco and this front 7. The physicality of it all is making me giddy! : )

    TCU will not be able to run the ball on us, and Dalton is out of there so I am going to predict (darn near guarantee) a win in Dallas this year. I am so glad we were able to schedule this final game with them!

  • Martin said:

    I agree with Justin. Let Fuga redshirt in 2011 rather than rush his return and risk another potentially career ending injury. BYU already has plenty of depth and Fangupo was an unexpected pickup that can replace Fuga while he recovers from his knee injury (I am still furious about that whole incident).

    What was the issue with Putnam last year that the article alludes to? He was one of my favorite players on defense last year.

    I am very interested in seeing how the Ansah experiment turns out.

  • Martin said:


    Yes, revenge will be sweet. I can’t wait for that game. Speaking of TCU, we get to watch our boys annihilate their basketball team again (and possibly for the last time) in about 30 minutes!

  • Steve said:

    Ansah is fun to watch! I saw him play at the end of a game last year, and he ran circles around (or jumped over) the o-line. I hope he will get to play more this year, if anything because he is fun to watch. Maybe they should throw him in as a running back just to see what he can do. You don’t’ have to understand football too much to take the ball and run down the field.

  • Gorum the Old said:

    Re Martin: Puttnam his a history of commitment/motivation issues. I am friends with someone who played with him in high school. He made the baseball team, but was shortly kicked off because he acted like a lazy bum with a sense of entitlement. In football he would regularly take plays off. Unless the play was coming his way, his playing to the whistle was a dicey proposition.

    Now clearly things have changed significantly, but sometimes old habits die hard. It was quite fun to see him bat down passes though.

  • Gorum the Old said:

    Do you think Dulan will really play nose? He started for 3 years at DE and nose guard seems to be the deepest position.

  • Brett Richins said:


    Ian played NT, although he could slide over to DE ala Eathyn.

  • Seasider said:

    I hope Fuga will be able to play this year. He was a hard working lineman who didn’t deserve the cheap shot injury he got last season. If he can’t go it looks like we have a good stable of guys who will be able to fill in.

  • v said:

    Dulan played some NT in 08 but the vast majority of his snaps have been at DE.

  • Ralph j said:

    Actually, Brett, Ian started at DE and during either his 2nd or 3rd year slid over to NT because of injuries at that spot. (iirc) In his freshman year he was at DE on the defense that was ranked 10th in the nation. He will give us tremendous depth and experience at both positions.

    I will really miss Vic So’oto but am excited to see what Fangopo and Tuiloma will bring to the table and also anxious to see how Ezekiel Ansah continues to develop.

  • Scott said:

    I am glad Meulhmann has switched over to DE. He was a much better DE in high school than he was a TE, and I was very surprised he played TE for two years before the switch.

    I am so excited about the team this year. We will face a few tough games followed by a bunch of very winable ones.

    I am moving to Missouri next month and am looking forward to you keeping us all up to date on all things BYU. Thank you for helping us keep our love of all things BYU sports strong!

  • Russ said:

    Spoke to Romney Fuga’s parents at the BYU vs USC volleyball match. Said that Romney is starting to workout. Also that he received his medical redshirt – TWO MORE YEARS TO PLAY!!!

  • Brett Richins said:


    Thanks, I did not know that Fuga had received his medical redshirt. Very good news, very happy for Romney!

  • Leo D said:

    All I can say is that it’s gret to be a Cougar bball and football fan these days!

  • BYU Blue 2003 said:

    From what I’ve seen of Rowley on film and from last season, I think that he’s a sleeper this season who can come in and do a lot of damage with his physical skills and one year under his belt.

    Also, thanks for the background on Ansah, Brett. After reading your article, the light bulb came on. He’s the guy with NFL speed, whose jersey # I didn’t recognize who was playing some on special teams in the UTEP game last season. (I’m typing this with a huge smile on my face.) Opposing offenses, beware. This guy has so much upside, it’s not even funny.

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