Ask A Coach- Chad Kauha'aha'a

The new defensive line coach talks about returning to his alma mater, depth on the line, learning from Gary Anderson, and more...

How has the offseason been?

It's been short. I've been working a lot. I had some time to go back home to Maui and that was about it. Spent two weeks with my family and worked a camp out there, but then back to Utah working. Trying to get everything squared away with my new players. Keeping in touch with my players academically. From what I was told, the players are doing a great job in the weight room and working hard. I've got to be happy with that.

BostonUte Question-You've been at Utah for a few months now coming from Utah State. How has the transition been and have their been any differences or surprises in the job at Utah compared to Utah State?

I think program-wise, it's very similar to Utah State. Almost identical. With Gary being with Kyle for so long, he's implemented the same things up at Utah State. That transition has been really easy for me. The terminology is the same. I'm running the same things that Gary ran up at Utah State. Terminology and understanding the scheme was a key transition for me. A big thing for me is the depth. The depth I have here at Utah is not even close to what we had at Utah State. Obviously I love the kids we had at Utah State. They worked hard for me, but the personnel and the caliber of player here is a step up in talent level. I don't know how to say it in a better way, but the caliber of player is better at Utah.

You're coming up on fall camp here in a few weeks. What preparations are you making for yourself and this team to get everyone ready?

I think this group of players is experienced. I'm dealing with a bunch of veteran players players. Getting them physically and mentally ready has been easy. They know what is expected. I've seen a lot of guys spending time in the film room. You see the players around sometimes and they're having their own meetings. We can't do anything with them, but player wise and leadership wise, we're moving in the right direction.

UtesRule Question- Utah struggled in getting to the quarterback last season with their defensive linemen. What's being done to get more pressure on the QB from those linemen going forward?

That was our focus in spring ball in being more aggressive up-front on the defensive line. Being a little more sound and disciplined in understanding how to pressure the quarterback. It wasn't just about making a pass rush move and getting up the field. We have to focus on some fundamentals like staying in your pass rush lane and having a focus point. Those are things we focused on in the spring. Being more aggressive overall. You're playing the pass as you play the run. I don't know if that makes sense, but trying to be more aggressive. Coming off and attacking the quarterback while still playing the run. Having aiming points and staying in those lanes and just those little things and trying not to create gaps. I think there was an improvement in the guys understanding that."

Is there any one guy on the defensive line that you think can be that main guy and pick up 8, 9, or 10 sacks this year from the end spot?

We should have a couple. I think with the two defensive ends we have in Derrick Shelby and Joe Kruger, those are two defensive ends that we're going to rely on heavily to get us to those numbers. One of hem has to have double digit sacks, and both of them are capable of getting double digit sacks. The key will be our interior play. The guys that don't get recognition like the guys that get 10 to 12 sacks in a season. With Star, James, LT, David Kruger, and if Latu Heimuli stays healthy, that's five interior guys that can help us pressure the ball.

Utah had arguably the deepest defensive line in the country last season and brings back quite a few of those guys. How many players deep do you anticipate being this year and what's an ideal number of guys to be able to rotate on the line?

We've got about 10. If we're at 10 then we'll be in good shape. As for the rotation, I have to see how it goes during fall camp. Myself and Kalani, we have to see how we're going to do this. We haven't made that decision yet. Are we going to just have four guys, and sub in when they get tired? Or are we going to really rotate? We haven't got to that point yet. There's a lot of time to figure that out. We have 8 to 10 really good players. I really like my second group of guys. And maybe one defensive end and one defensive tackle that can compile a third group like a Latu and a Nate Fakahafua.

You mentioned Latu Heimuli. I was under the impression the Latu would be taking a mission this year. Will he be playing instead?

He will be suiting up this year. His mission was postponed and he's been working with the team and had that foot problem last year. It's healing, and the reports that we got back from the doctor, he's pretty much good to go unless something else happens again. He's been working out with the team this summer. He's been running and lifting. I know there are certain lifts and things he can't do to make sure he doesn't injury his foot.

NorcalUte Question-What's the status of Lei Talamaivao? Is he fully healed after missing last season and spring ball and what are the plans for him this season?

I know Lei is a good player. It's hard for me because I haven't seen him do anything since I've been here, but that's not his fault with him being hurt. He broke his hand a certain way where he couldn't have any contact in the spring, so I couldn't asses him. From what I was told, Lei should be competing for a starting spot, and that's where we're at with him. I'm excited to work with him.

respectdautes Question-You have a highly regarded local kid coming in, in Nate Fakahafua, who many Ute fans are very excited to see. What are the plans for Nate as a freshman? He's pretty slight so has he been able to bulk up at all since getting on campus and hwo do you anticipate using him?

Nate is gaining weight. I'm told he's put on some pounds. We're planning on starting him off on the defensive side of the ball, and Nate is good enough to go play offense. but defense is where he can get on the field pretty soon. I know Coach Whitt isn't afraid of playing freshman and I'm not afraid of it either. I have no problem with true freshmen that are capable of doing it.

NorcalUte Question-Let me ask you about the Kruger Boys. Joe seems set at the defensive end spot, but Dave has played some at both that spot and at tackle. What's the best spot for him and how do you anticipate using him going forward?

Well I think for Dave, he can play both, but right now I think he is more suited as a defensive tackle, he's more comfortable playing there. We did look at him at defensive end, and after the spring we decided he's more comfortable inside where he can help us more. He'd be the first guy we'd pull from the defensive tackle spot to end if we were in a jam.

SonicUte Question-You spent a few years at Utah State learning under Gary Anderson. What are some of the things you picked up from him in terms of technique or teaching that you'll bring to this job?

I think the most important thing I learned from Gary is getting to know your players on a personal level. Getting to know who they are and making sure you have a good relationship. You don't have to be best frineds with them, but make sure your players know that you care about them. You have to genuinely care about what happens to this kid in his life. They'll play hard for you and do anything they can for you. I see it in him (Gary) as the head coach at Utah State in how the kids believe in him and trust in him. Also, recruit good players. You can be the best coach in the world, but you have to have good players to be successful. The players will make the coach. Bottom line is recruit good players.

1stdownutes Question-You have strong ties to Hawaii. What is Utah doing and what are you doing to establish a stronger recruiting base in the Islands and to make sure Utah is successful in landing players out there?

I think what we have to do is get over there more. Kalani has done a pretty good job, but it's been hard when you look at all the Pac 10 schools and places like Notre Dame going in there. It's been hard with starting that pipeline again. You've got to get maybe one guy a year to get that going. We have a lot of Polynesian players on the team and that helps having those Polys and kids from Hawaii. They're a different breed of player. I'm going to try my best and I've been working my butt off to land one or two of them, but it's not like it was before.

NorcalUte Question-You played at Utah and were an All WAC performer there. Are there any memories from your time there that stand out to you?

There are a lot of good memories here. Besides getting my degree and graduating and getting to know all of my teammates and developing all of these friendships. Beating BYU three out of four years was big. Beating them was good, but I lost my senior year, so that hurt. When you lose the last one your senior year, the other ones don't even count.

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