The Scoop on V.J. Fehoko

Ute Sports Report publisher Brian Swinney has the inside scoop on incoming transfer V.J. Fehoko. What are his strengths and weaknesses? What is he like off the field? Does he think Fehoko and his little brother, Breiden, a high school junior four-star defensive end, is a package deal?

The news of former Utah linebacker V.J. Fehoka's impending transfer to Texas Tech, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune on Monday, was welcome considering the Red Raiders need of new bodies along the defensive front.

V.J. Fehoka, the younger brother of Sam, who played linebacker at Texas Tech from 2008-2011, tallied 54 tackles in three seasons at Utah including 20 last year in spot duty. His top highlight probably came as a redshirt freshman, when he sealed a victory over rival BYU with a 57-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Since Fehoko graduated from Utah, he can play for the Red Raiders next fall and has one year of eligibility remaining.

Instead of theorizing on how good Fehoko might be and how he would fit into Tech's system, I went to a Utah insider for some insight.

Ute Sports Report publisher Brian Swinney took time to give the scoop on Tech's newest linebacker.

First of all, what's your overall evaluation of V.J.? How would you break down his overall performance at Utah?

Swinney: Well, V.J. is a run-stopper. He's not real tall, he's probably around 5-9, but he's well-built, he's a real big kid. He's in there to stop the run, they used him as a pass rusher occasionally, but he doesn't defend the pass well. Dropping into coverage, he was a real liability, especially against tight ends; he had a ton of issues there. That was one of the real reasons he didn't play as much last season, because with all of the passing offenses of the Pac 12, he was an absolute liability out there. He doesn't move real well out there laterally, because he's just so top-heavy. He just looks like a bowling ball out there. He hits hard and he plays hard and he's a smart kid, he picks up schemes pretty quick, but his liability in pass coverage is a big reason why he didn't get a ton of reps at Utah last year. That's a big reason he's moving on, because he wouldn't have gotten those reps again this year.

Just looking at the site it appears linebacker is a strength for Utah. Is that true, or is V.J. just that much of a liability and they just had to look at somebody else?

Swinney: Linebacker is a big strength. It's probably the biggest strength on the team right now, which is a big surprise because heading into the season last year everybody thought Utah was going to be terrible at linebacker. Utah goes about six-deep with their linebackers that they are compfortable with and V.J. was probably going to fit in that 7-8 range.

What is Utah's base defense?

Swinney: They run a 4-3. Last year, though, they sat in nickel for much of the time with two linebackers. A lot of times their defensive ends acted as outside linebackers and dropped into coverage, too.

Do you think V.J. would be better suited as a 3-4 inside linebacker or not?

Swinney: Absolutely. I think because he won't have to cover as much ground inside... It really depends on what Texas Tech like to run. I really don't know their defensive schemes.

Their base is a 3-4.

Swinney: If they're rushing their outside linebackers a lot he might be exposed a little but if they use them to help in coverage more than he could be a solid inside linebacker for a team. I think he probably fits best as a 3-4 inside linebacker.

So, do you think he could be an every down linebacker?

Swinney: It depends on what else Tech has. I mean is V.J. a Pac-12 quality linebacker? Not as a starter, no. I mean he's a good situation guy in the Pac 12. When it really comes down to it he's really a Mountain West quality guy, that's how we look at it here. That's kind of been my thought for the last two years. I feel like he's maxed out physically and maxed out in his abilities. Not really knowing what Tech has defensively, I would think he'd be a rotational guy and more of that top six or seven, but he's not going to be a guy that's going to be a stalwart of your defense. He just doesn't have it in him.

Well the Big 12 throws the ball around as much as anybody, including the Pac 12. A lot of the quarterbacks come out of Texas and are distributed around the country so...

Swinney: I know. If they are going to throw it around a ton, especially if they use the tight ends, he could have problems with that, because we just watched the tight ends destroy him in spring ball, in the fall and at the end of the season when he was in there. It was like once they saw him in there, they were like let's just throw the ball to the tight end and exploit him.
I'm making him sound like he's just this terrible player and he's not by any means. The guy hits hard and he's a great linebacker in short yardage situations when you know the run is coming. It's just with as much as the Pac 12 passes, and with the Big 12, who may even pass it more, he's a guy who is not going to be an every down guy. I can't see that.

What about off the field, the intangibles? You get to know these guys over the years. What is he like off the field?

Swinney: He's awesome. Definitely one of my favorite players on the team. I got to know his family a little bit. He's got a little brother, a 2015 prospect.

Oh yeah. That was my next question.

Swinney: I've sat down and had dinner with his family and stuff like that. They're great. He's a really nice kid and a smart kid, he gets it. He understands the game of football, he understands life. He's a guy who will definitely be a great teammate whether he's getting on the field or not. He's definitely a guy people will rally to and like to watch.

You know how crazy this recruiting game is, but as far as you know are the Fehoko brothers a package deal, with Sam being back there and now V.J.? Are they all trying to meet up in Lubbock? Do you think little bro follows him there?

Swinney: It could be. His little brother is a good prospect. I think Breiden has the most potential of all the brothers just because of the way his body is shaped and the way he plays, I think he could have a lot of potential. Do I think it's a package deal? No, not necessarily. I think he likes the attention of recruiting. He likes going out to Alabama. If I had to guess, and I checked with all my guys after all this went down with V.J., and with all my guys the guess would be that Breiden ends up at Texas Tech. Yes. If Tech just likes four-star guys they'll probably get him.

This is kind of off track but just as a college football fan, what happened with Utah this year. Obviously they had the big win over Stanford and had a couple big wins but not a great season.

Swinney: Yeah, before the season I said this would be the most maddening season; that they would show flashes of brilliance like they did against Stanford and by almost knocking off Arizona State and then times when they just get absolutely rolled, like they did when they played USC, Oregon and they played just horribly against Arizona. I don't know how that game was close. Utah takes a conservative approach to everything.
Coach Kyle Whittingham is a conservative guy not just on the field, but off it. Utah protects the ball, play it safe and it really didn't work this season. They're on their seventh offensive coordinator in seven years. That's never a good thing. There's a lot of indecisiveness with the program.

Hey I wanted to ask you how the other Pac 12 teams have acted towards Utah since joining the conference? I know for example the Big 12 added TCU and West Virginia and a lot of the Big 12 feels superior to them, especially TCU coming from the Mountain West.

Swinney: Sure. Well the Pac 12 has a really good commissioner in Larry Scott. He's helped spread the brand. When it comes to the perception of them, Colorado hasn't been to a bowl game since they've been in the conference and Utah has been in one. Everybody kind of looks at Utah and Colorado as a win. It didn't really add anything to the conference in terms of raising the profile of the conference,it just meant there's a title game now and they are on T.V. more.

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