"Well, today I had three sacks during practice," So'oto said after Friday's early morning practice. "I only really count the one that came against the first-team offense, and all the other sacks I don't really count. I basically just want to count the sack I get against the first-team because you have to go against the best and have success against the best. If you aren't able to have success against the best, then you have to go back to the drawing board. That's kind of how I look at it."
When quarterback Jake Heaps is at the helm commanding the first-team offense, So'oto is up against All-American offensive tackle Matt Reynolds. When Riley Nelson is behind center with the first-team offense, So'oto faces Braden Brown. To have success against either of those two isn't too shabby, and along with his three sacks on the day, So'oto also blocked three field goal tries by Riley Stephenson.
"It was kind of a fluke though because we had our punter doing field goals. Mitch Payne hurt his leg yesterday during a field goal attempt and so Riley was forced to kick field goals, but I'll take them."
Playing outside of So'oto is boundary linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Like with So'oto, it's hard to find a day when Van Noy hasn't made some outstanding play on the field.
"Kyle is very athletic and that's really helped us on the outside," So'oto said. "He's so quick off the line and I think he had a couple of sacks today too. He's coming along."
The speed of So'oto on the defensive line coupled with the speed of Van Noy poses a challenge for the offensive lineman guessing which to block. Oftentimes Van Noy, who possesses outstanding quick-twitch muscle reflexes, will blitz while So'oto comes on a stunt. The abilities of the two compliment each other rather nicely.
"When you have the kind of athletic players like we have in Kyle Van Noy, Jordan Pendleton [and the] Bryan Kehls of the world, it makes it a lot easier for us on the d-line," said So'oto. "They draw blockers and so a lot of times I'll be one-on-one or he'll be one-on-one and that's just one guy to beat to get to the quarterback. We both compliment each other because we're both fast and have good moves, so we can do a lot of things together."
So'oto and Van Noy have also built a good relationship off the field.
"Off the field we like to talk some trash to each other to see who can get to the quarterback first or the most and stuff like that," So'oto said with a smile on his face. "I keep calling him my little sister because he's younger than me and he kind of looks Polynesian. So I'll call him my little sister and he calls me his grandpa because I'm a little older. I might be older but he looks older. No, it's all in good fun and it's good to have someone like him playing with me. We do good things together and have a good relationship."
Although the defensive tandem of So'oto and Van Noy is having success on the Cougar practice field, they know there is still a lot of room to grow.
"Yeah, we'll see how we do once we start playing games," So'oto said. "I like where we're heading and what we're doing now. Riley [Nelson] runs a lot, so it's a little preview to [Washington quarterback] Jake Locker. Kyle is doing well and he's getting stronger to take on some of the offensive tackles in the run game. Besides that, he's been doing some pass rushing and he's really good at it. I think it's just more just building up his confidence now and letting him know he can go and do that against anybody."
So'oto has seen how Van Noy has grown since last spring camp. Although he still has a long ways to go, Van Noy has grown more comfortable within his position.
"He's definitely more comfortable now than he was in the spring," So'oto said about Van Noy. "I think as practices go by he'll get more and more confident. He'll start to refine his game and get sharper in his pass rushing moves as they develop. He'll start to get a quicker feel for how offensive linemen play and with his abilities know how to beat them."