Mendenhall and his staff will undoubtedly look to commit and then sign a stock of good young defensive linemen to help out in 2008 and beyond. While the defensive line starters look to be solid and have good depth behind them for 2007, there will be some holes that need to be filled in 2008.
In Stock for 2008
The Cougar defensive front will have some experienced and talented defensive linemen ready to man the starting positions for 2008. The nose tackle and two defensive end positions will likely be filled by Russell Tialavea in the middle, Jan Jorgensen at one end and Brett Denney or Kyle Luekenga on the other end.
Although sophomore Ian Dulan will likely start throughout this next season, he has definite plans to leave for a mission after the season is over. Matangi Tonga is another factor who may or may not be on the team this coming season and beyond. If he's able to return he'll add considerably to the depth and overall talent of the Cougar defensive line.
Upcoming players such as Matt Putnam, Mark Fitu, Mosese Foketi and some others may add considerably to what defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi will have to utilize in 2008, but their prospects are hardly known at this time. This of course leads to some gaping holes that will need to be filled this coming recruiting year.
Like most who follow the program closely, we're patiently waiting to see if defensive lineman Brian Soi can get to BYU or not. If he's able to join the team in 2007 he'll likely again be available for the 2008 season and will finish out playing two straight years.
If Soi can get here he'll go a long way in alleviating the current and future needs at the nose tackle position, as Tialavea still does not have a proven backup for the 2007 season or much less the 2008 season. Soi is simply one of the best defensive line prospects ever to come out of the state of Utah. Athletically, Soi is at least on par with Haloti Ngata, who was a high draft pick in the NFL.
Currently, Soi is furiously trying to complete two classes up at Salt Lake Community College to become eligible. His availability for the 2007 season is doubtful, although he could wait yet another year and play a single season for BYU in 2008. Only time will tell and we wish Soi the best in making his way to the Division I football playing field.
So if Soi doesn't get to Provo, who will be backing up Russell Tialavea at nose tackle for the next two seasons? Spring practice saw no one step up to establish themselves as an adequate backup. The most likely backup for Tialavea right now is Judd Anderton, who has proved serviceable, but will be graduating after this next season.
Last year saw Romney Fuga stepping in as a true freshman to rotate effectively with Russell Tialavea to finish out the season. While Eathyn Manumaleuna may be able to duplicate what Fuga accomplished last year coming in as a true freshman, depending on incoming freshmen as immediate answers isn't where a program wants to be at any position in any year.
Even if Manumaleuna does step in and give a Fuga-like performance, he'll be leaving for a mission after the season, which leaves the cupboard bare at the nose tackle position for 2008.
Junior College Help
With immediate holes needed to be filled, BYU is looking to the junior college ranks early on the fill those holes. With two promising junior college linemen already on board for 2008 in Magnum Mauga and recently-committed Tevita Hola, the middle of the defensive line looks to be in good shape in regards to immediate help.
But the outside of the defensive line will be in great need of help as well. Again, BYU is looking again to the junior college ranks to fill those needs. They have already extended an offer to Simi Kuli from El Camino Junior College while taking a hard look at Snow defensive end Coleby Clawson.
High School Help
The big name that will be battled for instate is David Kruger. Kruger plays for nearby Timpanogas High School. His services will be battled over very earnestly by both BYU and Utah, both of which have extended offers. Other high school names are likely to pop up here soon as summer camps are set to commence.
Look for BYU to sign as many as four junior college linemen this coming year. With a need to have at least six able bodies capable of rotating in and out of the three-man front during a game, the defensive line is a position in great need of depth. With so many scholarships being allotted to junior college linemen, we don't see BYU being in the hunt for many high school defensive linemen outside of David Kruger.