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Weighing the emergence of Cougar nose tackle Ngalu Tapa

IT WAS HARD NOT to notice d-lineman Ngalu Tapa in Washington State’s spring game. The 6-foot-2 third-year sophomore crashed the pocket repeatedly, posting three sacks along the way. The primary reason behind Tapa’s emergence in spring ball? Vegetables, he tells Cougfan.com.

“I’ve been really focused and really locked in, and trying to lose weight,” said Tapa.  “The heaviest I’d been this spring was 330, and now I weigh 310.”

Tapa, who is backing up senior nose Robert Barber, credited the combination of Washington State’s strength and conditioning and nutrition programs in shedding the unwanted pounds.

“They’ve helped me put vegetables on my plate instead of just a bunch of meat and bad stuff,” said Tapa. “Now it’s pretty much vegetables, salads… fruit and just limiting the amount of meat.”

Tapa said another piece to the improvement puzzle this spring was d-line coach Joe Salave'a.

“The way Coach Joe coaches you, he focuses on hand strike, hand placement -- all those drills he focuses on really helps us out on the field… that’s really helped in my development,” said Tapa.

Tapa lines up over center a good amount of the time, with Riley Sorenson and “his crazy grip” Tapa's biggest nemesis this spring.

“The toughest guy I go against is pretty much Riley -- with Riley and his grip, there’s something wrong with his hands,” laughed Tapa. “When he grips you, it’s bad for you. Me and Rob always talk about that, we always try to game plan and figure out ways to go against Riley even just for practice, trying to figure out ways to get his hands off of us before he gets a grip.”

Tapa is close with Barber, continually comparing notes about any mistakes either might have made.

“Me and Rob always watch film together, and with Coach Joe, and I just follow Rob everywhere – I do everything that Rob does and I’m trying to get to be like Rob,” said Tapa.

Tapa said his top technique priority this spring was his first step, making it both quick and vertical.

“That was my main focus, and I’m still working on it,” said Tapa.

Tapa also said Salave’a emphasized being violent with the hands and keeping a low pad level this spring.

“Low pad level was a big thing this spring – we all had decent pad level but it can always be better,” said Tapa.  “When you have low pad level the o-line probably won’t be able to stop you and when you throw in your hands, it’s going to be pretty tough for them for them to keep a hold on you.”

Tapa came to WSU with accolades galore out of Sacramento’s Luther Burbank High. Playing in a top-notch league, Tapa racked up sacks and tackles for loss despite double- and even triple-teams his junior and senior seasons. But he hasn't found the same success at WSU to this point. He played at around 280 pounds back in high school. 

Accounting for the jump in competition level to the Pac-12, checking in around 310 this season might just prove to be the magic number for Tapa and the Cougs.

“I’ve been trying to get back to get back to what I used to do in high school by losing the weight… Losing the weight has helped me move better, helped me better recognize what the o-line is doing and react quicker than I used to,” said Tapa.

RELATED STORY: Prep coach talks about what Cougs are getting in Tapa commit


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