"The one thing K-Popp wants from us is to be able to play both sides at Will and Sam," said Alani Fua. "Both sides have some similarities to them, but there are also some things that are a little different that come with both positions. You have to be able to do different things well in order to see the field.
"At the Will side you want to be able to have the size and speed to take on the offensive tackle, but at the Sam linebacker position you have to do that as well but you also have to be able to pass-cover as well. You have to be able to defend against the run on both sides too."
There is no doubt that Fua can pass rush with great effectiveness, but he wants to be effective at all other aspects of his position.
"When I'm in there, you know, our base defense, or during our nickel defense, or pass rushing, or taking on the run, I'm going to try and bring an all-around game," Fua said. "That's my goal this year. We've got a lot of diversity and strength on the outside. We got strength on the run with Kyle [Van Noy] and Spencer [Hadley] and speed with me in there in the mix, but I want to be able to have ability to be an all-around player in every aspect of the game."
And that means being able to defend against the run. Since last season, Fua has gained about 10 pounds to go with his 6-foot-5-inch frame.
"Right now I weigh 220 pounds, and so that's good," Fua said with a smile. "I wanted to be at 230 to start the season, but I don't know if that's going to happen or not. I feel a lot better this year playing on the line against the run. I feel that my actual weight has helped so much this year and I think it's only going to get better."
In evaluating Fua in pass-rush drills under the tutelage of Coach Poppinga, he's very quick off the edge, gets good positioning on the outside and has very active hands.
"I want just want to play in every games and do my best," said Fua. "I just want do my best and obviously get some sacks and help make an impact on my team. My main goal is to get better in the run game. That's one of my primary goals this year because that will be one thing that will get out on the field more. I need to be more stout on the run.
"So, this year I expect myself to be more of an all-around player on the outside. I think this will be the biggest difference with me this year, but I still have some work to do to get where I need to be. I don't think I'm very far off from getting there though."
As a redshirt sophomore, Fua will be a solid contributor for the Cougar defense this season. He's a little bigger, just as quick and fast, and will pose a challenge for offensive tackles with his pass rush and defensive prowess this year.