Releasing A Pent-Up Pit Bull

During his sophomore year at Bingham High School, it was easy to see that middle linebacker Manoa Pikula was going to be a division one athlete. Now a redshirt freshman, Pikula is doing very well early in spring camp, rotating in and out with Tyler Beck. After a redshirt season, a pent-up Pikula is fighting to be unleashed.

While it remains uncertain whether Manoa Pikula will crack the two-deep roster, it is evident that he is making some noise at the buck side linebacker position where he's competing with 6-1, 212-pound Tyler Beck.

"I'm rotating with Tyler Beck at the buck position and then he's been rotating with Zac [Stout]," Pikula said. "Tyler has played the Mike linebacker position before so he knows how to play it, so we've kind of got a three-way rotation thing going on."

Being a little lighter and good in the open field, Beck will move from time to time to the field side where the ability to cover more field is critical. At 6-1, 230-pounds, Pikula has only rotated in and out at the buck side linebacker position.

"Yeah, usually when I come in with the twos, Zac will come out," Pikula said. "That's when Tyler will go to Mike in a three way rotation. I'm the only one that plays buck linebacker so those two guys rotate when I come in."

Although he had plans on serving a full-time LDS mission, Pikula has decided not to go. He'll stay at BYU and play football.

"Yeah, I'm just going to stay and have decided not to go," Pikula said. "I want to stay and play football. I don't know, I'm just hungry to play and the whole redshirt thing kind of humbled me but at the same time made me pissed."

Not playing in a game for the first time in over three year build up some frustration and anxiety that Pikula feels needs to be let out on the field of combat.

"Oh no, I'm not pissed at the coaches or anything like that," Pikula said. "I love our coaches here and they're the best guys around. I'm just anxious to play and expect a lot out of me, you know what I mean? I just want to play football and get out there and having to go through the year last year didn't seem like normal. Now that football is back, things seem normal now that we're on the field hitting each other. I just want to play."

Revving to go, Pikula looks at his time on the second team as a blessing resulting from having redshirted last season.

"It's a blessing and I keep talking with my family about what I'm doing out here," Pikula said. "They're proud of me and just keep motivating me to be better and better. Now that my redshirt year is over it's time for me to dress up and show up. That's what I plan on doing every play and every down."

When Pikula was being recruited by the Cougar coaches, one facet of his game that was being evaluated was his coverage ability as an inside linebacker. His position coach, Coach Tidwell, has further helped Pikula understand his role as a buck linebacker in the 3-4 system.

"He's really helped me with my coverages," Pikula said. "That was one of the main things that I tried to work on through my redshirt year, and to become football smart and things like that. In high school, I was a run stopper and someone who would just blitz. Now I want to become a more all-around player and be able to do it all.

"I want to be able to blitz, be that run stopper and also be someone who can cover and do all those things by being football smart. I still have a lot of learning to do, but thankfully all the starters are welcoming me in and the coaches have been so helpful with me in film."

The level of play by Pikula and Beck has allowed the coaches to make some position changes. From the Buck position, Spencer Hadley was moved to Sam where he could compete with Alani Fua for a starting spot.

"I feel like Spencer went to the outside to help out in place of Jordan Pendleton," Pikula said. "I think he'll do a great job at the Sam linebacker and he's an athlete that can cover well in space as well as be that run stopper. As for me, I'm just going to try and fill in wherever I can and do my best to try and get some playing time.."

As one fighting for a spot on the two-deep, Pikula makes no issue about what he wants to do this year.

"I want to play so bad," he said. "I've been waiting too long."


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