Feula looks good in the middle of the 3-4

Things have not been easy for Vince Feula at Arizona. He has had to battle academic problems that delayed the start of his career, but since finally reaching the field he has played very well. Feula may not fit John Mackovic's desire to have taller linemen, but he left the spring as the starter at nose guard.

This story was originally part of Premium Content. We'll have a number of football interviews up between now and the start of camp.

Vince Feula is finally starting to live up to the hype that followed him after a great career at La Mirada High School. He was one of the top players in LA and considered one of the best linemen in all of California. Academics seemed to be the only thing that could slow him down. He had to wait to enroll at Arizona in 2000 and sat out the 2001 season after being ruled academically ineligible.

He enters the season as the starter at nose guard in the Wildcats' new 3-4 defense.

"This is very sweet," Feula confessed. "When I first got here I had a few setbacks, but now I've set everything straight. I've got to keep moving forward."

Feula had a solid season in '02, but hopes to improve on that this year. Last year he had 11 tackles, two of which were behind the line of scrimmage. He also had a lone quarterback sack. This spring however, he has looked great. At 6-0, 300 pounds he is like a bowling ball in the middle of the Wildcat defense. Despite his size, Feula has deceptive quickness. For a big man he is quite athletic, but this is no surprise to those who saw him play fullback in high school.

The quickness really pays off in the new 3-4 alignment. In the new defense Feula is able to attack a lot more instead of mainly being employed as gap control. He still has to control his gap, but now he is expected to attack more up the middle.

"I like it a lot," Feula said. "This defense works really good. A lot revolves around me. I have to play up to my potential every game. It really helps out a lot. I just get to make plays and do what I wanted to do when I got here."

In the 3-4 Feula is always attacking an "A" gap, or the spaces on either side of the center. In this defense he "shoots" the gap, or gets into the space as fast as possible. His first responsibility is to stop any ball carriers from getting through his gap. After that he is just trying to get in the backfield and wreak as much havoc as possible.

"In the old defense I was still a nose guard, but in the Double-Eagle Flex I had more assignments," Feula said. "This one is more simple. I have just one gap and that's all I have to control. It's a lot simpler for us, we have more freedom to do things."

Feula teams with Carl Tuitavuki at the position. That's well over 600 pounds of nose tackle. Both are squat, yet quick. They had success in the spring getting into the backfield and were especially good against the run.

"I have that one assignment," Feula said. "I hit the gap and do what I want to do. If I get tired and need a break then they can bring Carl in. He's a real good player."

Despite off-field controversy, Feula says the Wildcats are ready to make a statement this year.

"We have been working really hard," said the junior-to-be. "We're training really hard to get into tip-top shape to come out and just perform."

Feula will spend most of the summer in Tucson working on football and school.

"I'll just stay here and maintain," he said. "I just have to maintain my strength, my speed and my conditioning. I'll take a few classes and work out. I plan to work out all summer." Feula is in a good spot for the start of fall camp. He's the No. 1 guy in the middle of the defense. Things are going good for a player who had a tough beginning to his Wildcat career.

"Right now I'm penciled in as a starter. I just have to keep it up and keep working hard."

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