The New Kids on the Block

Just after the start of fall practice, true freshman Walter Kahaiali'i was thrown into action with the second team offensive line, where he held his own through fall camp. Kahaiali'i and his fellow offensive lineman Rick Wolfley both took time to talk with and break down the new talent on BYU's defensive line.

Like his uncle Willy "K" Kahaiali'i, a famous singer and performer on the islands of Hawaii, BYU freshman Walter Kahaiali'i can sing and play the ukulele with great skill. When he is not performing spontaneously at Cougar banquets, Kahaiali'i is blocking the likes of L.A. Times Linemen of the Year Romney Fuga, top rated California D-linemen Matangi Tonga and fall camp standout Ian Dulan.

"They're all really good," said Kahaiali'i. "They help me to develop my hands a lot. When playing those guys, you have to work on having quick hands. In going up against those guys, hopefully it will help me to develop myself better."

Each of these incoming D-linemen brings an unique skill set. With defensive line coach Steves Kaufusi rotating and mixing up the younger talent with the more experienced veterans, the offensive line gets to face a wide variety of skills.

"Matangi Tonga is a good all around player," Kahaiali'i said. "He's a great bull rusher and he has great hands. He also has a lot of speed on him that makes you want to get out of your stance quickly to get into position to use your hands against his. He's a really good player. Plus, I hang out with him a lot. He's in my dorm and is a really good guy. He has a good attitude about things and is always willing to work hard."

Currently, Matangi Tonga is roommates with Star Valley, Wyoming offensive linemen Rick Wolfley. Despite playing on opposite sides of the ball, the two are very good friends off the field.

"Well, Matangi Tonga is my roommate, and in my opinion, he's the hardest guy to block," said Wolfley. "He's got such quick feet and quick hands and is a strong kid. He knows what he's doing, and he's not afraid to get in there and do it.

"He's a really funny kid and has a lot of energy especially when everyone is trying to go to sleep. He just keeps us all going, but like I said he's one of the hardest to block and a very strong freshman D-linemen coming in."

Growing up in a predominantly white community in Wyoming, Wolfley is now getting a taste of Polynesia from his new roommate.

"There's not a lot of them where I come from in Wyoming," laughed Wolfley. "They're all really funny and I get along great with all of them, they're great. At first I was a bit worried about all the different cultures coming into BYU, but now I'm having fun learning about these guys and it's been great getting to learn about the different cultures. I think it's just the school and the type of people that come here to BYU.

"Off the field we don't have any problems, and we're all really good friends, but on the field it's a different story. Off the field they're all my friends and we all go to breakfast together. We just do whatever, and it's fun just to hang out with those guys because they're always funny and happy people. They're all great guys."

Romney Fuga was named the best linemen in Southern California by the L.A. Times. He beat out USC commit Alex Parsons for the honor. Wolfley and Kahaiali-i saw plenty of Fuga during fall camp when they were all playing with the threes.

"Romney is a cool guy too," said Kahaiali'i. "He's really laid back and mellow off the field, but on the field he changes and really brings it. He's really good. He's really, really strong, and I would say that's his biggest asset right now. He's really strong and uses his strength to bull rush. He gets really low and uses his leverage with his strength. You have to really move your feet to get leverage against him or he'll man handle you."

When Fuga or Tonga decides to bull rush, offensive linemen better be ready for it. Kahaiali'i has a few tricks up his sleeve, however.

"You have to have good stagger," Kahaiali'i said. "You have to have better footwork to get that hop technique down where you keep your base but hope backwards to try and stop that bull rush. You have to process that quickly and get yourself in position to use that technique."

Wolfley sums up Romney Fuga's style of play much in the same way as Kahaiali'i.

"Romney is just a really strong kid that can go through you if he wants," Wolfley said. "Technique wise, Romney's got a lot of stuff going for him. I think he's going to be great especially in a few years."

Joining Kahaiali'i from the islands of Hawaii is Ian Dulan. Both Kahaiali'i and Dulan played for Kamehameha High School, although Kahaiali'i attended the Maui campus while Dulan attended the campus on Hawaii. At 6-foot-1, 275 pounds Dulan was a Hawaiian canoeing and shot put champion as a senior.

"He's a speedy guy," said Kahaiali'i of Dulan. "He's really speedy around the corner. Off the edge he's quick and really good with his hands so if you don't get out of your stance quick enough he will blow right by you. He's really awesome, and he never quits. He's always running, and I always see him running after the ball and pursuing no matter where the ball is on the field. He never quits."

Rick Wolfley agrees with Kahaiali'i that if without proper position, the new D-linemen will blow right past you.

"Ian Dulan is a really good D-lineman," said Wolfley. "He got a lot of quick hand movements and he is really, really hard to read. He's quick off the line and he's going all out all the time. You gotta read him as quick as you can or you'll be wondering what happened because he's the type of guy that will never quit.

"These guys are much harder to read coming off the ball trying to locate who's going where and who you're supposed to pick up because they're so fast. These guys can switch it up pretty quickly, and it's a lot different than in high school. Most of those guys were just kids off the farm, where here, these guys are all athletes trained to do this."

Joining BYU's young D-linemen is the only junior college D-line recruit in this year's class, Mosese Foketi.

"Mosese is cool too," said Kahaiali'i. "He and Matangi are pretty much the same style. They're both quick off the line guys. They use a lot of handwork, and if they need to, they can bull rush you too. They're both awesome with their hands, which means we have to work twice as hard with ours."

"Mosese is another guy that never quits, plus he's quick and strong a lot like Matangi Tonga," Wolfley said. "He got that technique and lean where he can get around guys."

Kahaiali'i feels one area of his game the newer D-linemen are forcing him to develop is his hand skills.

"Developing my hands is something I'm working on right now with the O-line guys," Kahaiali'i said. "At this level, it's all about handwork and technique, and these guys on the defensive line are already at a higher level with their hand skills. It's all about technique here because everyone is so talented. You can't just line up and beat guys here like you can at the high school level, so I'm learning how to use my hand technique better and these guys are forcing me to learn quickly."

"I give a lot of props to my senior O-line group," Kahaiali'i said. "Guys like Dallas [Reynolds], Eddie [Keele] and Jake Kuresa really help us younger guys out a lot. Jake really helps us out a lot and if you ask him a question in the classroom he will really help you out a lot. He doesn't look down on anyone because they're freshman guys and is willing to really help out the younger guys learn and develop more quickly. All of these guys are just really awesome.

"They show me my little mistakes here and there. Travis Bright was working with me on a few things out on the field. They're all just awesome guys and will critique me on what I need to do to get better along with Coach Grimes. It's like having a bunch of big brothers and a whole set of coaches out there."

"Jake Kuresa is playing in front of me, and there isn't a better example to learn from at the D-I level than big Jake," said Wolfley. "There isn't anyone that can help you learn better than Jake. Everything he does is right so you want to incorporate what he does into your own technique. He uses his strength and his technique to his advantage to throw guys around on the field, and that's where I want to be. It's a bit tough right now, but it's been a good learning experience for me, and I'll pick it up and contribute to the team as quickly as I can."


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