Last season was the year that Manoa Pikula was supposed to break out for BYU during his junior season. However, that didn’t happen. Now BYU’s returning leading tackler is poised and ready to take on what he hopes is a starring role.
“I’m just ready, you know?” Pikula said. “I’m ready to take on the challenges and be that guy. I’m ready to lead the defense and leave everything out on the field for the team and these guys. It’s time to go!”
Joining Pikula on the middle linebacker crew is close friend and former Bingham High School teammate, Harvey Langi. Pikula hopes to see the field alongside his close friend and workout partner, Langi. However, there’s a catch. Both play the Mike linebacker position but Pikula has been cross-training as a Buck.
“Right now they’re cross-training me at Mike and Buck,” Pikula said. “Then they’ve got Harvey [Langi] specifically at Mike right now. It’s been really good and it’s been a journey with us now playing together. I know I can trust this guy to do his thing. I have no reservations at all when it comes to Harvey playing with me at the middle linebacker position. We have the potential of playing together and starting together by the middle of my senior year. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
“I’ve been learning and playing both sides to better know the overall scheme of playing in the middle. When you can do that, then you can know what the other guys are doing or not doing and help out. If someone makes a mistake you can pick up on it and cover him better. It’s been really good for me.”
While it remains to be seen if Pikula and Langi will play side by side this season, there’s no doubt how close these two have grown since Langi’s return home from his mission. It is a goal of theirs to play together at some point in the season. They have the talent, but it’s a situation that really is up to them whether it that happens or not.
“We’ve been working out together this whole summer, and this is what we’ve dreamed of ever since we were little,” said Pikula. “We’ve been playing together ever since we were little and now the possibility of playing together on the college level is a reality. I’m helping him as best I can to better learn the defense and he’s pushing me too. It’s good that Harvey came over with us. He’s pushing everybody and is that vocal leader. I feel that’s what we needed on this defense is that vocal leader.”
Pikula and Langi missed all of spring camp this year, but that didn’t stop them from continuing to improve their skills all on their own. These two Tongan linebackers have something to prove and want to do it this fall leading into the season.
“We’re coming out with a chip on our shoulders,” Pikula said. “I mean, we didn’t sit out of spring camp just watching things go by and sitting on our butts just going to school. No, we were training and working hard. We used that time to train and watch film. I feel like the leadership from the middle linebacker crew is really, really good. I mean you can put anyone else in the middle and I believe Coach Tidwell would be just fine with it because he can trust anyone of us. We’re all hungry out here.”
With an intense schedule that kicks off with Nebraska looming on the horizon, the stakes are high this year. Pikula feels the team preparation and effort has been on high alert all year long, which is a good thing.
“I think the one thing everyone knows is what’s ahead of us this season,” said Pikula. “I feel like all of us have attacked our training as hard as it’s ever been. I just feel like everyone has bought in, and our team focus and training has been the best since I’ve been here. Basing everything off of that and how we’ve really attacked this fall camp. Our team is hungry.
“We have Nebraska on our minds. We’re looking at one game at a time and first on our list is Nebraska. Once that game is over then we’ll focus on the next game and so on."