Spring Position Battles - Defensive Line

The Utes lost depth on the D-line last year, so who will step up this spring to fill the holes?

Defensive Ends
Candidates: Joe Kruger, David Rolf, Nate Fakahafua, Tevita Malafu
Favorites: Joe Kruger, Nate Fakahafua
Dark Horse: David Rolf
Winners: Joe Kruger, Nate Fakahafua

The graduation of Derrick Shelby, Nai Fotu, and Tevita Finau coupled with the more natural fit of Trevor Reilly at OLB means there aren't a lot of defensive end options on campus available during spring camp. It's pretty clear here who will get the bulk of the playing time and attention. Joe Kruger spent nearly all of last season starting for the Utes at defensive end opposite the now-graduated Derrick Shelby which is why we can pencil Kruger in as one of the spring DE starters. The other spot vacated by Shelby will be up for grabs and there are two primary contenders who will fight to be #1 - Nate Fakahafua and David Rolf. Rolf is the older, more experienced player who saw decent playing time last season as the year went on. He showed signs that made you believe he could be a real player and definitely proved he has potential. Fakahafua on the other hand is an athletic freak with a much higher ceiling but has only one year of play under his belt. He saw limited playing time last season but definitely had a spark about him that had some fans excited to see more. Fakahafua is a multi-skilled player who can play either DE or OLB but limited depth at the end position means he'll likely be slotted there for the entire season. In the end it will be the speed and athleticism of Fakahafua that will win out and put him in the lead heading into fall camp.

Defensive Tackles
Candidates: Star Lotulelei, Seni Fauonuku, Ron Tongaonevai, Dave Kruger, LT Tuipulotu, Jason Whittingham
Favorites: Star Lotulelei, Dave Kruger, LT Tuipulotu
Dark Horse: LT Tuipulotu
Winners: Star Lotulelei, Dave Kruger

The defensive tackle spot offers a little more depth than the defensive end position but not much more. Star Lotulelei is a clear-cut starter and it's not even close. He proved to be one of the Pac-12's best defensive players last season and surprised everybody when he announced that he would return for his senior season at the U. Dave Kruger is a solid player with plenty of starting experience who will most likely get the nod over the rest of the second-tier tackles. He is undersized in the Pac-12 and he doesn't clog holes or break up plays in the backfield but he does a good job of disrupting plays and is rarely dominated by his opponents. So who will challenge these two? LT Tuipulotu is the most likely candidate this spring. He's a big, athletic player who matches up much better in the conference than the undersized Kruger. Ron Tongaonevai is another possibility, a 6'2" 300lb senior who will certainly add depth but he's a long-shot along with Whittingham.

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