Manumaleuna Returns To Different Position

The hero in BYU's 17-16 win over UCLA in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl, Eathyn Manumaleuna has since returned home from serving a mission in Oklahoma. Now, the 6-foot-2-inch, 280-pound former nose guard finds himself playing a different position on the defensive line.

Generally most of the only real physical activity a missionary gets while out in the field is from riding a bike, walking from neighborhood to neighborhood, or jogging apartment stairs. When Eathyn Manumaleuna finished serving in Oklahoma, he went to work in order to get back into playing shape.

"Well, when I first got off my mission I stayed back home in Alaska for a couple months," he said. "While I was there I did some conditioning and lifting, which prepared me for the spring workouts here. That's when I came here was for the spring term and I started doing workouts like conditioning and lifting here. I was able to slowly get into some shape. I think I still have to keep working on that."

It's a good thing too, because on the first day of fall practice Manumaleuna was lining up a little wider than usual and playing at the defensive end position. The change from nose guard to defensive end might not seem like that big of a switch, but Manumaleuna begs to differ.

"It was pretty tough making the switch," he said. "I'm not so much of a pass rusher. I'm more of a run stuffer and more used to taking up a double gap, so it was kind of tough playing out of position on the first day of practice. I feel like a freshman all over again."

It's been about six months since Manumaleuna was teaching and knocking on doors in Oklahoma, and he is focusing on back into the swing of things, both physically and mentally.

"Things are a lot different now and I can still get myself back into shape since my mission. Most of the plays that I learned two years ago are slowly coming back. I don't have it all yet, but I think if I have those two things - getting back in shape and being mentally smart with the plays - I'll be good."

Aside for shaking off the missionary rust and reacquainting himself with the playbook, Manumaleuna has to also adjust to his position change. Nose guard is probably one of the more thankless jobs on the defense, being primarily a gap-filler or double-team obstacle for the other team. The requirements, both in philosophy and technique, are different when playing the defensive end position in a 3-4 defense, and is something he'll have to get used to.

"I have to change my mindset with pretty much everything going from nose guard to being on the outside," said Manumaleuna. "There are different reads and different techniques that I have to do and it's all new to me. I just have to get into the books and in the film room and start studying again."

But why the position change?

"Coach Kaufusi told me that they want more of a run stopper on the outside," Manumaleuna said. "I'm not much of a pass rusher on the outside, but the middle of our defense is solid with Romney [Fuga]. If I can't do what's required on the outside, they'll just move me back inside, but they just want more of a stout player on the outside to hold down the outside and keep ground. I think that's the main reason why they want me out there."

Playing defensive end isn't the only change Manumaleuna has seen since returning to the football program.

"The biggest change I've seen is just playing with new people," Manumaleuna said with a chuckle. "I think everyone on the defense is new to me except, I think, Brandon Bradley. The whole locker room is different now but it's good to meet new teammates and make new friends. I'm excited for this year."

Prior to his return home, there was a rumor that consistently reared its head concerning Manumaleuna transferring to UCLA upon completing his mission.

"UCLA ironically offered me a scholarship while I was on my mission," Manumaleuna said with a sheepish grin on his face. "It was kind of strange because I blocked the field goal in the Las Vegas Bowl game and then while I was out on my mission they offered me a scholarship…

"I don't really know how that came about, but they contacted my parents. I didn't really talk to them, but they contacted some other member of my family and didn't really have any say in the matter to the [UCLA] coaches or anything. I just didn't talk to any of their coaches."

So, there was never any threat of Manumaleuna leaving the Cougars..

"You know, BYU was the place for me and where I need to be is here. There wasn't any doubt at all that I was coming back to BYU. First of all, my parents wouldn't have allowed me to not come back and I've always been loyal to my parents. They always know what's right. Also, because this is the Church's private school and the LDS atmosphere is the best. The coaching staff here at BYU is wonderful and the players are as well. Coach Mendenhall is such an awesome coach that there really isn't a reason why I would want to leave this place. This is the best place to be, except for maybe Oklahoma! No, I'm teasing."

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