Jake Hatch/Total Blue Sports

BYU defensive lineman Handsome Tanielu has been slowed with an injury but he feels he is finally getting healthy & wants to play well

After struggling most of the season with a nagging arm injury, Handsome Tanielu has steadily become more and more visible on the defensive line as he gets healthier. Tanielu played a significant number of snaps during the Cougars’ victory over Cincinnati and hopes his presence on the field continues to rise.

Handsome Tanielu’s first year at BYU hasn’t gone quite as one would hope for a four-star defensive tackle JUCO recruit. He suffered an arm injury and has been battling back ever since.

“I’m still holding back a little bit because I tore a ligament in my elbow,” said Tanielu. “It’s kind of holding me back in certain areas. Right now I’m just kind of going through the pain.”

Although Tanielu’s playing time has been diminished due to his injury, he doesn’t regret choosing BYU one bit.

“Oh yeah!” said Tanielu. “Coming to BYU was the best decision of my life.”

Despite the fact he could have gone to Utah, which is in the top 25?

“Oh yeah!” Tanielu quickly said. “It doesn’t matter to me. I mean, half the schools that offered me and we played are in the top 25. I don’t regret it one bit knowing where I am as a person. I would make that decision over and over again, especially knowing what I know now. Knowing what I know now, I would never back off coming to BYU. This is where I’m supposed to be and I couldn’t be happier.”

Although not fully healthy, Tanielu has played behind Travis Tuiloma, who was returning from a Lisfranc fracture. The coaches felt that Tanielu could see the field sparingly and fill in when possible.

“Travis put in what he could do, and we went into the season as if Travis wasn’t going to come back,” said Tanielu. “To get him back in the season was a plus for us. I kind of played this role of filling in, but at the same time I got injured myself so it kind of restricted some of the things I could do. It was better to put someone fully healthy out there instead of me with just one arm.”

Currently Tanielu believes he’s getting close to being fully healed up, where he’ll be able to play to the fullest of his abilities.

“I would say right now I’m about 85 percent,” Tanielu said. “For the most part I have the ability to do what I need to do, but at the same time I’m still restricted in some things. I’ll get there though.”

Coach Tuiaki mentioned that others will have to step up in the absence of Tuiloma, who is out for the season after injuring his knee. The good thing is BYU is entering into the softer part of their schedule with Southern Utah coming to town.

“I think they really want to come over here and beat us,” said Tanielu. “I think it will be a good game. They’ve got some good size and they’re tall, but I don’t think they’re bring anything that we haven’t seen before.

“They gave Utah some fits and they’re a good team. They had a bye-week and were able to watch us play Cincinnati, so they might have a little bit of an advantage of time for preparation. On the other hand we have everything that we need and every tool that’s necessary to go out and play a good game.”

As the Cougars get ready to face the Thunderbirds, one would think former SUU head coach Ed Lamb would have a treasure trove of information to pass along to his new charges at BYU. While that might be the case as far as player tendencies and scouting reports, Lamb hasn’t said much else to give his players an advantage.

“He has some things to say but nothing that really stood out,” Tanielu said. “It’s just another team that we are going to play, and we need to align ourselves fundamentally and play to the best of our ability. He just tells us, ‘This is who they are and this is what they have, and this is what we have and this is what we need to do.’ We’re going to come out there and do what we need to do.”

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