Fall Practice Preview: Defensive Line

The Cougars look to be very strong on the edges of their defensive front entering fall camp. A couple of seniors with a wealth of experience will lead the charge and fans can expect some great play from the defensive end positions. However, there are some questions surrounding the nose tackle position that need to be sorted out this coming fall practice session.

There isn't a whole lot of intrigue regarding who will be man the two starting defensive end positions this coming fall practice session. Defensive end looks to be perhaps the most secure position on the team, with seniors Jan Jorgensen (6-3, 259) and Brett Denney (6-4, 265) set finish strong this coming season.

Jorgensen has been a mainstay along the defensive line since starting as a freshman. He came in as an unheralded recruit, but will end his career providing more consistent and dominant play from his position than many highly touted recruits.

Jorgensen simply knows how to play football and provided consistent play even as a freshman. He was boggled down by double-teams throughout last season, but hopes for better interior play to free himself up to make more plays this coming year.

Denney, meanwhile, had to overcome the learning curve involved with playing end in a 3-4 system as opposed to a 4-3 base defensive system. He battled through it, to the point where he took the starting job away from former starter Ian Dulan last season.

Denney has been improving with every year and should go out having his best season since he arrived at BYU. Coming off of a very productive spring practice session, Denney should be poised to finish out very strong as BYU's primary defensive end opposite Jorgensen.

Uncertainty at Backup

Academic uncertainty remains around the two players assumed to be Denney's and Jorgensen's primary backups. If Bernard Afutiti (6-1, 262 Jr.) and Matt Putnam (6-6, 267 So.) remain eligible, they'll play significant roles as rotating options this coming season.

Afutiti has performed very well in every practice session that he's been a part of. Should he be able to see the field of play this year, the entire defense will benefit as a result.

Fan have already seen a glimpse of what Putnam is capable of. His battle now is to become more of an every-down defensive end instead of a passing-down specialist. Putnam added weight to help himself do that this past spring, and the progressions he makes will be something worth noting throughout the fall practice session.

Next in Line

Vic So'oto (6-3, 253 Sr.) has struggled to find his position, but enters fall camp listed as a defensive end. So'oto has never been short on potential, but has had to battle injuries throughout his career at BYU. Should he stay healthy and reach his potential, his contribution could be significant. TBS will be monitoring his progress throughout fall camp.

Jordan Richardson (6-4, 250 Fr.) performed very well during his true-freshman year before his mission and has been impressing during offseason workouts. Richardson adds very good depth to the position and he could make a strong bid this fall to break the two-deep roster.

Thomas Bryson (6-5, 230 Fr.) will be making his debut on the Cougar practice field. Like it is with all incoming players, we'll be noting carefully whatever progress he makes.

Walk-on options include such players as Steven Fisher (6-4, 249 So.), Matt Peterson (6-5, 265 Fr.)...

...and David Tuitupou (6-5, 254 Fr.). The intrigue at defensive end involves who will be backing up Jorgensen and Denney and to what degree. We'll be noting any and every movement in the battle for the primary backup roles this month.

Center of Uncertainty

The nose tackle position is one of a lot of importance in any 3-4 system. It's imperative that the nose tackle receive consistent double-teams to free up the rest of the line and linebackers to make plays. While there are options at nose tackle entering fall camp, there is still some uncertainty.

Russell Tialavea (6-3, 286 Sr.) wasn't expected to play this year, but sources recently have indicated that he indeed has decided to play before leaving on his mission. Should he follow through and regain even some of the form he showed as a freshman before his ACL injury, it could do wonders for the defense.

Tialavea has been working out all offseason as if he were going to play. He's shed a lot of weight and we'll be noting intently how effective he proves to be this coming season.

Rick Wolfley (6-3, 352 Jr.) has some good experience since switching over from the offensive side of the ball two seasons ago. Wolfley is a good run-stuffer who has provided good backup play. The question this fall practice session will be if Wolfley can shoulder more of the workload.

Tevita Hola (6-1, 320 Sr.) hasn't had the impact most were expecting after he transferred from Snow College. Hola could go a long way in easing the concern surrounding the nose tackle position, and we'll be noting his progress this month as he works to prove himself worthy of a spot in the rotation.

Other Options

A lot of intrigue surrounds the return of Romney Fuga (6-2, 280 So.) following his mission service. Fuga contributed heavily to the nose tackle position during his true-freshman season and very well could be called upon again to add to the overall production of the nose tackle position.

Fuga has only been home since late June, so how effective he'll prove to be remains in question. He has received raves during offseason workouts and should warrant a lot of attention from media this fall regarding what impact he'll be making this coming season.

Other options include such players as Rockey Kalamafoni (6-2, 289 So.) and a host of incoming freshmen who may switch over from their assumed offensive line positions to the defense to help out at nose tackle.

Filling the nose tackle position this coming fall practice session is easily one of the top priorities for the Cougar coaching staff. Indeed, the entire overall success of the defense, particularly its ability to defend the run, hinges on finding an effective rotation at the position.


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