When BYU played Nevada last season at LaVell Edwards Stadium, Wolfpack head coach Brian Polian made an interesting comment on a player at a position that doesn’t get much glory. Travis Tuiloma was singled out by Polian for his powerful play at the nose tackle position.
“He looks like he could bench press a Volkswagen,” Polian said in an interview prior to the contest with BYU last season. “The way he picks up centers and moves them around is incredible. I don't know his strength numbers, but when you watch him play he looks like he might be the strongest guy on the team.”
He very could be right. Tuiloma is a beast in the middle of the defense, soaking up blockers and instilling his will in the middle of BYU’s vaunted 3-4 defense. However, Tuiloma isn’t one to boast about his abilities. He’s constantly focusing on simply getting better in his own humble way.
“I think I’m pretty inconsistent right now, and all I care about is doing my job for the team,” said Tuiloma.
However, he did admit that he has improved over this fall camp. One area within his repertoire of personal growth has been in the area of his hand technique, which will assist him in providing a better pass rush.
“This fall camp I personally feel like I got better with my pass rushing as far as using my hands,” Tuiloma said. “I’ve struggled with that in years past. As a hole I think our defense meshes really well. We’re really versatile as far as that goes.”
One former BYU nose guard that was very good with his hand technique was none other than the very versatile Eathyn Manumaleuna. Although Manumaleuna has left the program, Tuiloma has pegged Manumaleuna as a key influence for him.
“I personally think about Eathyn Manumalaeuna,” Tuiloma said. “He’s my main guy that I try to model the way I play.”
Manumaleuna was versatile, smart, and very sound in his technique. The former defensive lineman played every defensive line position with a sound performance. Tuiloma is much the same and could move from the nose tackle position to the defensive end spot if needed.
“I think I could bounce out, but I’m needed mostly at nose right now,” Tuiloma said. “That’s my main focus.”
However, Tuiloma shifting outside may not be needed due to the quality of outstanding defensive line depth the Cougars have coming back this year. Logan Taele is a walk-on who made great strides over the past year and is expected to start. He, Graham Rowley, Remington Peck, and Bronson Kaufusi have all come on strong at defensive end.
“I would say the run game will be really good,” said Tuiloma. “I trust all my guys that surround us, our front seven. I also trust our defensive backs coming in from the outside.”
Concerning Taele, Tuiloma has been impressed with his rise among the defensive ranks, and he credits Taele for doing by having a strong work ethic while being over tough.
“It’s really all hard work,” Tuiloma said of Taele. “That guy is probably one of the hardest workers I know on and off the field. He’s really consistent and he’s really a tough dude. He’s a tough dude.”
Overall the front seven has made tremendous improvements from what was an offensive drubbing during spring camp. The defense has found their chemistry and is playing as a more cohesive unit as time closes in on the Nebraska game.
“I would say we definitely improved as camp went along,” said Tuiloma. “At the beginning we were all kind of shaky trying to figure out our assignments and trying to get back into the grove. Right now we’re more comfortable with our assignments and the plays that we need to do
“Right now [Coach Mendenhall] is pretty confident. As far as us proceeding to the ball, that’s something he keeps reiterating to us. He tells us that we need to keep going and keep being consistent with that.”