Spring Preview: Defensive End

Utah is looking to reload once again at defensive end this spring, and several players have the opportunity to make an impact...

Utah lost two key contributors at defensive end in Hunter Dimick and Pita Taumoepenu. The duo combined for 95 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 23.5 sacks, seven passes defended, three fumble recoveries and four fumbles forced. The Utes need to develop a host of young players, as of the six scholarship ends on the roster, five are freshmen or sophomores.

Incumbents: 

Kylie Fitts returns for another year after missing the 2016 season due to injury. The former UCLA transfer has started 13 games for the Utes. Fitts is a disruptive force and is athletic enough to play defensive end or linebacker. He is adept at playing the run, rushing the passer, and getting his hands on the football with 10 career passes defended, four forced fumbles and a blocked kick. Fitts will likely be held back in spring practices, but he will start, likely at right end or stud linebacker.

Filipo Mokofisi can and has played defensive end, starting outside last season against teams that run the football. Mokofisi is a better tackle, but he has the experience to start if Utah can’t find more suitable options. Given Mokofisi's experience, we probably won't see a lot of him at the position in the spring, but it's an option Ute fans should keep in mind.

Challengers:

Bradlee Anae played well in a limited role as a true freshman, playing in six games. He saw his most extensive action late in the season, recording sacks against Arizona State and Colorado. Anae is a capable pass rusher who needs to improve on run defense.

Chris Hart has moved back-and-forth between defensive end and linebacker during his two years at Utah. Hart saw limited playing time in 2016 and recovered a fumble against Colorado. He has the athleticism to be a good pass rusher, and may have found a home at defensive end.

Maxs Tupai redshirted in 2016. The former four-star recruit at high school Butkus Award finalist will compete for a spot in the rotation and has enough talent to push for a starting role. He plays with an attitude and has the size, strength and athleticism to play the run and the pass.

Darkhorses:

Davir Hamilton is an explosive athlete who redshirted in 2016 as a linebacker. Hamilton has good instincts to go with his explosiveness. He is undersized for a defensive end at 225 pounds, and how he handles the transition and the contact in the trenches will be something to watch.

Caleb Repp redshirted in 2016 after playing as a true freshman in 2015. Repp has moved from receiver to the defensive line, and he has the length and athleticism of a prototypical pass rusher. Repp will have to add weight and strength to his frame. If he does, he has terrific potential at defensive end.

Position Outlook:

Fitts is the only defensive end with significant game experience, and the only end that has shown the ability to be more than a pass rusher. If one of the Anae, Hart or Tupai trio can show the ability to defend the run, he will have a big advantage heading into fall camp. Utah does have the ability to mix-and-match lineups based on matchups, giving the defensive staff flexibility to cover up individual weaknesses.


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