Spring Practice Preview: Defensive Line

While the middle of the Cougar defensive front looks to be solid, the two end positions will have a couple of glaring voids left to be filled with the departures of Jan Jorgensen and Brett Denney. But though there will be a lot of questions to be answered at the end positions, there is some good talent ready to fill in during the 2010 season.

While most positions are filled with good experience entering spring practices, the exact opposite is the case along the Cougar defensive front. Some experience does exist, but as a whole the defensive line looks to be one of the more inexperienced position groups on the team.

The good news is that there is some experience returning at every position, although there are no returning starters. Chief among the returning players is Romney Fuga, who will almost certainly receive the bulk of the reps at the nose tackle position.

Romney Fuga 6-1, 295 Jr.

Fuga has seen very good experience in each of his first two seasons, providing solid play at the nose tackle position. While still shaking off missionary rust a season ago, he proved to be someone who could take around 50 percent of the reps and still be effective when doing so.

This spring he'll likely take the majority of the reps, as the current roster is bereft of much - if any - natural nose tackle talent. He'll receive help at the position this fall with the impending arrival of Eathyn Manumaleuna, Travis Tuiloma and others that will add their talents to the position.

Jordan Richardson 6-3, 275 So.

Richardson saw spot duty last season in four games and has proven to be a serviceable option at either the nose tackle or defensive end positions. This spring will almost certainly see him getting the bulk of his reps, if not all, at nose due to the lack of bodies at the position.

Defensive End

Many more question marks exist at the defensive end positions, where coaches will lean heavily on the experience and talents of junior Matt Putnam and senior Vic So'oto. Outside of those two, there won't be a lot of experience within the program that will vie to fill the end positions this spring.

Matt Putnam 6-6, 255 Jr.

Putnam has battled in becoming a complete every-down defensive end since arriving home from his mission. His pass rushing abilities are great, but he'll again be asked to improve upon his run defense. Putnam looks to be one of the two starters at defensive end.

Putnam is one of the better athletes on the team and if his run defense abilities approach those of his pass rush, then he should do very well this coming season. We'll be seeing how he does against the run this spring, as coaches will have to rely on him to see the bulk of the reps.

Vic So'oto 6-3, 265 Sr.

So'oto came to BYU as one of the better athletes ever recruited to the program, but a string of injuries coupled with numerous position changes have kept him from developing those skills to their fullest. He feels that he's finally found his position at defensive end and did show flashes of great play last season in spots.

This spring he'll be relied on as an every-own defensive end much like Putnam, and could really benefit from a full session of spring practices. Should So'oto remain healthy, he should rise to become a very productive defensive player.

Thomas Bryson 6-5, 230 Fr.

Bryson joined the squad late last year due to injury, but there is some buzz around him and how much he can contribute to the defensive line starting this spring. We'll be anxious to note how he practices, as we've never seen him perform live due to BYU's closed-door practice policy while in season.

Jadon Wagner 6-4, 264 Jr.

Wagner has always been someone with a high ceiling athletically, but has struggled to find a role within the Cougar defense so far in his career. This spring he'll have a prime opportunity to prove himself as a ready option to rotate in or even start at the defensive end position.

Remington Peck 6-4, 240 Fr.

Peck was very raw at the position last August and didn't make many waves during preseason practices, but has had a complete fall to improve his game, and we'll see how he looks this spring. Peck has a lot of upside and could benefit the overall depth and play of the defensive end position starting this spring.

Walk-on Options

The other options will include players such as David Tuitupou (6-5, 254 So.), Simonte Vea (5-11, 245 So.), Matt Peterson (6-5, 250 So.), Kalama Kaluhiokalani (6-0, 250 Fr.) and Garrett Eskelsen (6-4, 213 Fr.). We will be getting good looks at them this spring, including first looks at some of them. Overall there won't be a lack of bodies that coaches will have at their disposal, and the hope is to find adequate replacements for two long-time starters, which won't be an easy task.

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