"My comfort level in this position is good," said So'oto. "Having that Samoan mentality, I've always wanted to go out and hit someone."
When So'oto came to BYU from Carlsbad High School as a true freshman, he was tested by some of the upper classmen playing the linebacker position. The linebackers pressed and jammed him at the line of scrimmage, only to find themselves knocked down to the turf. From that day on, Coach Tidwell name So'oto the "Terminator."
"Yeah, I remember that," said a chuckling So'oto. "I've been itching to hit someone. We've only been practicing in these thud pads, so I haven't been able to hit yet. I've been looking forward to it and it's been fun so far."
Knowing he was going to make the switch, So'oto put a lot of effort into developing himself in the offseason for the position.
"I've had a good offseason," So'oto said. "I had to condition myself for defense because it's a lot different than offense. Strength-wise I've been getting myself where I need to be. I don't have to try and keep the weight off now and have been getting heavier. I'm now at 248 and sometimes get to 250 pounds at times, but I'm still moving well.
"I've been watching a lot of film. I've been doing a lot of extra conditioning with the help of Coach Alba. I'm just trying to get into extra good shape. I want to be able to put myself in the position to make plays on a consistent basis, so as far as conditioning goes I've been working really hard and even when I feel like I want to give up, I don't. Even if I feel I can't walk, I'm still out there trying to help my team."
When switching from one position to another, the comfort level a player has with the position will determine how effective he is. Reading and reacting to what the offense is doing takes away precious time and hinders a player from being able to put himself into a position to make plays. On the observation front, So'oto looks comfortable and flows well to the ball, which is a good sign because he is reading less and his reactions are becoming second nature.
"We've only been practicing a couple of days now and have run a couple of defenses," said So'oto. "I'm just trying to perfect myself within those couple of defensive packages so I have a good foundation to work from. Once I get a solid foundation of what our defense is, I'll slowly work from there by learning the different calls. I'm doing well so far and will keep progressing, so when it comes time to play in the games, I'll just go out there and play football."
To further his personal development, So'oto has had a lot of team support after the switch to linebacker. Many of his fellow teammates have mentored him in various aspects of the position.
"David Nixon has really helped me out a lot," So'oto said. "Bryan Kehl has also helped me and Grant Nelson [has too]. Jan [Jorgensen] has helped me out on my pass rush because he's the rush master from the outside. Coleby Clawson from Snow Junior College played defensive end, and so he has a good background in beating those larger offensive tackles. He's been helping me on how to be a more efficient pass rusher from the outside, so as a linebacker core they've really gathered around me and have made the switch a lot easier."
So'oto has been learning how to be a more effective pass rusher from the outside due to the fact that he's playing boundary linebacker. It's a position that rushes the quarterback more, while the field outside linebacker drops back into coverage more.
"The two positions do much of the same things," So'oto said. "It's just that [on] the boundary side you have less field to work with. The main difference is the field outside linebacker is more of a cover guy. That's why Bryan Kehl had all of those interceptions last year for outside linebackers. The boundary outside linebackers seem to rush more, which is why Nixon had most of the sacks. It does kind of vary at times. Right now I'm playing boundary outside linebacker, but I am learning both positions. Hopefully one day I'll be able to play both."
"It's funny," said a chuckling So'oto. "I don't care who I butt heads with, I just know I'm going to win. No, they're all a bunch of great guys and I'm really close with Dennis and Andrew. We all have lockers right next to each other. It's really funny playing against these guys now. It's different and we joke about it all the time. They always say, ‘Oh, I'm going to get you next time.' They say things like that and we have a lot of fun with it. I'm having a lot of fun out there."