A bigger, stronger Alani Fua

Due to a lack of depth, there is a three-man rotation at the outside linebacker position. One of those players is Alani Fua, who has gained more size and strength and is impressing coaches while running with the first- and second-team defense.

So what's the biggest difference in Alani Fua this year compared to last?

"Right now I think it's my weight," said Fua. "I'm 225 pounds right now. That's the heaviest I've ever been since I've been here. I feel more powerful out there, I'm not getting pushed around as much. I just feel stronger at the point of attack and I'll be a more well-rounded player this year instead of just coming in for a pass-rush situation."

The added size has allowed Fua to become more of a force on the outside. The challenge now is to learn to maintain a high level of play with his added size.

"Yeah, it feels good and I'm more powerful but I have to get used to playing at this weight," Fua said. "I feel good and even though I've added weight I don't feel slower. I feel just as fast as before but it's just getting used to sustaining a high level of play on a consistent basis with the added size."

This spring camp, Fua, Tanner Cox and Teu Kautai are being put to the test as really the only three currently rotating in at both the Sam and Will linebacker positions.

"I've been going from Sam to Will along with Tanner Cox because we've had so many guys injured in spring," said Fua. "It's really just me, Tanner and Teu Kautai, who came over from Buck to help us out. He's actually playing both positions right now and going back and forth. We're just thin right now and it's hard going back and forth taking every rep, but me and Tanner are doing our best."

Cougar superstar Kyle Van Noy has been participating in spring camp, but his involvement is very reserved.

"Well, Kyle does more the individual stuff during practice and just kind of sits out during team periods," said Fua. "There's not much for Kyle to prove and the coaches know what he can do. Plus, they don't want to risk him getting injured or re-aggravating anything."

Meanwhile, Lene Lesatele is currently home preparing to serve a mission.

"He's down in California right now and I think he leaves in April," said Fua. "He's spending time with his family right now until he heads out. It's just another reason why we're so thin on the outside, but he's getting ready to go on his mission and that's a good thing in my opinion."

Even among the three current outside linebacker participants, all is not well.

"[Cox is] a really good player too but has been playing with a broken hand," said Fua. "He's just playing through it because we're so thin right now. Without him right now we would be struggling, but he's a good player with size. I think he'll help us out a lot this year."

Coach Poppinga singled out Fua as one of the more pleasant surprises in spring camp thus far. The Cougar assistant coach also singled out Kautai, who has been moving back and forth from Buck to Sam linebacker this spring.

"I worked out with [Kautai] all winter and he's really strong and athletic," said Fua. "He just hasn't had a chance to really get settled in one position. I think if he comes out to outside linebacker it would be good because that's what his body type is more suited for. He's really strong too so he'll be stout against the run. I think once he learns everything he'll be good on the outside with us."

Last Wednesday, Will side linebacker Jherremya Leuta-Douyere suffered a concussion that forced Coach Poppinga to place his players in a round-robin situation in order to be competitive on the outside. Prior to Leuta-Douyere's concussion, he was having the most productive camp of his short BYU career.

"Jherremya is playing a lot faster this year," said Fua. "He's been in the program for a year now and so he knows exactly what he's doing. In meetings he knows the answers to all the questions, so I think it's allowing him to play a lot faster and use his natural ability to play faster to his advantage. He's thinking less now that the game is coming more natural to him, so he's a lot faster and more comfortable out there."

It's safe to say that when Sam linebacker Spencer Hadley and Will linebacker Kyle Van Noy return, the starting lineup will look different. It's a scenario that Fua fully understands.

"Technically, me and Tanner are first on the depth chart, but once we have guys come back things will change around," Fua said. "Right now me and Tanner are going with the first team. Well, really it's a three-man rotation with everyone going in or out with the ones and twos. Me and Tanner will go in and then one of us will stay in with the twos. Whoever stayed in with the twos will come out with the next rotation and whoever stayed out with the twos will go in. Me, Tanner and Teu are the three-man rotation now that Jherrmya got a little concussion."

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