Paul Tidwell Breaks Down BYU's ILB Position

Gone are the days of Uani Unga, Zac Stout, Brandon Ogletree, and Uona Kaveinga manning the middle of BYU’s defense, but BYU inside linebackers coach Paul Tidwell believes he has guys in the program that will step to become the next household names to man the middle linebacker position for BYU in 2015.

The middle of BYU’s defense at Buck and Mike linebacker consists of a mix of experienced and younger players learning and playing the position. BYU inside linebackers coach Paul Tidwell wants to use spring drills as a time to develop the younger players in his position group.

“Well, we’ve got a lot of young one’s coming up that we think can help us,” said Coach Tidwell. “We’ve got a lot of experience coming back as well. This is going to be a spring were we develop the young one’s coming up in the program.”

The more experienced among the middle linebackers this spring camp are Austin Heder and Jherremya Leuta-Doyere. The two are currently holding down the first team unit.

“We’ve got Austin Heder in the program and he played quite a bit last year, so he and Jherremya [Leuta-Douyere] are two guys that know the defense well and I trust them as far as execution and getting the defense lined up. As far as leadership, Austin Heder is very vocal. So, I’m excited about those two.”

The middle of BYU’s defense over spring camp will see limited reps and appearances by veteran players such as Manoa Pikula, Harvey Langi, and Teu Kautai. However, in fall Coach Tidwell expects to have those guys back into the fold as well as return missionary Butch Pau’u over the summer

“We’ll have [four] more guys coming back to us in the fall as well, Tidwell said. “Butch Pau’u will be coming home off his mission, and then Harvey [Langi], Teu [Kautai], and Manoa [Pikula] will be back with us in the fall. I’m confident they’ll be back for fall.”

Coach Tidwell has Adam Pulsipher and Phillip Amone holding down his second unit right now. He believes those two, along with Va’a Niumatalolo, are guys who could make an impact down the road.

“We’ve got [Adam] Pulsipher in there right now,” Coach Tidwell said. “He’s someone that is getting some reps and we’re looking to develop. We’re pushing him to continue growing and learning.

“For the young guys coming up like Adam [Pulsipher], Phillip [Amone], and Va’a [Niumatalolo] who is a little banged up right now and is working through some things. Those guys are hungry and are really pushing.

“Our third stringers are guys that are learning the position, so I’m happy with what I have for the spring. It will be good experience for them. We just need to keep them healthy over spring.”

One player, who was at linebacker but made the switch to fullback, is Toloa’i Ho Ching. Coach Tidwell believes that if Ho Ching were still playing in his group he would be pushing for first string status.

“With A’i Ho Ching he’s now over on the offensive side of the ball as a fullback,” said Tidwell. “He’s a guy that I think is going to do some good things over there on the offense. I didn’t have a whole lot of time with him, but if he were still playing middle linebacker he would be someone that I would really be pushing hard for playing time.”

Of the new group of guys coming in or are more experienced within the position, who among them is the next Uani Unga or Zac Stout in Coach Tidwell’s opinion?

“I would like to think all of them have it,” Tidwell said. “Uani [Unga] was a special linebacker and we’ve had some special linebackers here. We’ve had Ogletree, Kaveinga, and other guys that have been really good for us. I think these group of guys will be similar.

] “The effort’s been great and I don’t worry about those guys. They run to the ball hard. They’re all bought in and are guys that you don’t have to ride. They’re very attentive in meetings and have great attitudes. They’re just awesome to work with.”

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