"Just as far as the small stuff, I got into the defense last year and I learned the coverages but I didn't learn the whole defensive scheme and alignments by the linemen," said So'oto. "It's kind of a whole new world I'm starting to learn. Jan [Jorgensen] and Brett [Denney] are really helping me out a lot out there. They've been a great help in bringing me along."
"He's coming along and making plays," said teammate Brett Denney. "He still makes things happen despite being relatively new to the position. He still needs to get where he needs to be and get things done at his new position. It's great to see, and if he continues to work like he has been and continues to progress like he has been he's going to be a stud."
So'oto learned quickly that as a defensive lineman, being indecisive has consequences. Facing big guys like 340-pound Terence Brown, 310-pound R.J. Willing or even 335-pound Fono Vakalahi can be tough while lying on the ground.
"The more indecisive I am out there, the more I get beat and on the ground with a 300-pound offensive lineman on top of me," said So'oto. "When I get everything from Coach Kaufusi down, then I'm going to be able to really explode. Then I'll be able to play my type of game with having all the knowledge and technique to have that part of the game down. When all of that comes together I'll be able to be more effective."
It may seem trivial, but one aspect about being an effective defensive end is having a first quick step, and having a quick first step hasn't been much of an issue for someone as athletic as So'oto.
"I'm happy with my first step as a lineman," So'oto said. "The first step is everything as a defensive lineman but the second step is just as important, so that's what I'm working on right now. I can get off the line quickly and in a position to do something, but there's more to it than that. Once you get there you have to know what to do, and that's what I'm working on. You have to be able to read on the fly and make plays. When you get off the ball you have to be able to read the linemen, where the running back is and be able to locate the ball. Everything has to be done in a split second."
"He's been able to really get by with his natural abilities," said Denney. "It's worked out that he's been able to use all of those natural skills he has. Now it's just getting that technical side of the game down so he can have both aspects of the game down."
In scouting out So'oto as he works on the second-team defensive line, he's dominating at an early stage of fall camp. In time as he becomes more seasoned, he will be able to use every weapon, both physical and technical, at his disposal.
"Coach Kaufusi wants us to learn everything," said So'oto. "The season is long and there are always injuries, so he wants the nose guards to learn the defensive end position and he wants the ends to learn how to play defensive end on both sides of the line. The only thing is the defensive ends don't play nose guard. I'm not big enough and don't have the lower-body strength like Russell [Tialavea] has. He's strong in his lower body and can really hold the middle if he wants to, but right now I want to do more. I wish I could have gotten more work done in the summer. I'm frustrated mostly because I want to always do more and make more plays, but I have to work within the scheme so I also have to be patient. It's coming and I'm happy with how fast things are coming.
"I'm starting to assert myself more. It's come easier for me and I'm starting to know what to do in certain alignments. When you don't have to think about what to do but just are able to do it, I can just use my speed and all the tools I've been working on with Coach Omer in the weight room and out on the track. It's been fun and slowly but surely it's coming along."