During the 2017 spring game, former defensive safety and Bo linebacker Kavika Fonua run roughshod at Lavell Edwards Stadium in his new role as a Cougar running back. Fonua showed good vision and brought a brand of linebacker toughness to the backfield, which could very well make him an every-down type back.
As former BYU record setting do-it-all running back Jamaal Williams is preparing to enter into the NFL draft, the coaches are searching for every down backs to help spell Squally Canada the way he did Williams. That back just might be converted linebacker Kavika Fonua who showed well during the annual spring game.
“I know the defense and I love the defense and it’s all hyped up over there and everything because we are loaded there,” said Fonua. “Coach Sitake and I had a talk about me going further on the team, so the talk was about me moving to running back where I could go farther and help the team.
“We have first and third down backs and me and Ula are pretty much an every down back. It might be running back by committee. We have good running backs in Trey Dye, Riley Burt, KJ Hall and all have really good abilities. I don’t want to put anyone down so we’ll see how it goes.”
At around the 180-pound range, KJ Hall and Trey Dye fall more in the mold of quick, scatback runners, while Matt Hadley, Riley Burt, Squally Canada, and Kavika Fonua fall more into your every down back range at 210-pounds and up. Ula Tolutau is also an every down type bruiser back/ fullback who is now in the 247-pound range since he lost around seven pounds since January.
“Get guys like KJ Hall and Trey Dye and Sqaully Canada on the outside and they’re tough to tackle in the open field,” Fonua said. “They just go and get good yards. Me and Ula are bigger backs but more all-around backs. If you need a catch we can do that and if you need a first down by getting tough yards we can do that too. Ula is hard runner and coaches like that. As long as we are getting four yards a carry the coaches like that.”
Always searching for a way to help fit athletic ability to favorable positions, Coach Sitake, who recruited Fonua while at Utah to play running back, felt Fonua’s abilities of physicality, speed, and vision could help on the offensive of the ball.
“Before I was behind Frances Bernard at the Bo linebacker spot, and I don’t want to be behind Frances,” Fonua said with a laugh in his voice. “He’s really good and we have a lot of depth there with Isaiah Kaufusi coming on strong. He coaches and I just thought it would be best for me if I step up and switch to running back and play with Squally.”
So, Fonua started playing running back over spring camp. He has some running back in his background from his high school resume. He did show good vision, burst of speed, and toughness but will need to continue developing his zone read ability, which is big in Coach Detmer offense.
“I did running back in high school and everything is similar, but I think I’ll get a good handle on it before spring ball,” said Fonua. “This offense is different because we set the defense up and that give us the chance to do what we want, so there has been a really big emphasis on zone running. That’s been the big emphasis this spring, I mean big emphasis.
“It takes more patience and you’re not just going straight ahead. It’s not just a set designed play where you’re going straight ahead. It’s kind of like you’re setting up a hole then you make a read and go to a different one. You want to hit the hole but you don’t. You kind of skip to another hole that’s opening up, so you use your vision a lot more than just go to a designed hole on a specific play.”
The plan over the rest of spring camp heading into the summer is to continue building upon the physical requirements that will make him a better ball carrier.
“The next step for me is getting bigger, stronger, and faster,” said Fonua. “I have really good vision and I’m good at holding onto the ball. Seeing things develop is one of my strengths, so the vision part is good with me and I have that part of the game down. I’ve got a lot of the details down and now I just want to hit it full speed by fall. By fall camp I want to be faster in zone reads while continuing to improve on my speed in the open field. Those are some of the things I want to improve.”