These somewhat unsung heroes for Van Noy, and all linebackers’ success, will look to repeat that process that helped give BYU’s defense its no. 3 ranking last year.
With Ziggy off returning interceptions for touchdowns in the NFL and Romney Fuga fighting for a spot on Denver Broncos team, Bronson Kaufusi and Eathyn Manumaleuna are more than willing and qualified to take on the job.
Recently named to the Hendricks Award watch list, Kaufusi, now a sophomore, made a name for himself last year as a force on the defense recording 23 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. His name only got bigger as he joined the basketball team midseason proving that he’s an all-around athlete who loves to compete.
He is a bruising rusher who’s not afraid to take on any blocker at any time.
He’s not expected to return to play basketball again, you can be sure that he will channel all that extra competitive edge into becoming a defensive playmaker that opposing offenses will not be able to ignore.
Kaufusi packs a punch into every game and every snap he takes. Look to him to use his “might as well be bronze knuckles” to wreak havoc in every offensive line he’ll face this year.
The Past has Passed, Now is the Time for Manumaleuna
Now Manny (am I the only one that saves time by calling him Manny?) will always hold a special place in the hearts of BYU fans everywhere for single handedly winning the BYU-UCLA Las Vegas Bowl game in 2007 with a blocked field goal, securing a 17-16 victory.
The past, however, is behind us and with Manny fully recovered from his injuries he’s poised to make an even bigger impact on the defense as a whole.
Coming in with career totals of 96 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and 1 interception, a healthy Manny will add even bigger numbers.
He, like Kaufusi, also has been added to a preseason watchlist award: the Outland Trophy given to the best interior lineman in the country. Fortunately, Manny is good at keeping himself under wraps and won’t let any of this hype get to him.
If anything will get to him, it will be the fact that he has one year left as a Cougar. And he, like so many other seniors, will work the hardest he ever has to give his last year everything he’s got.
You can all be sure that Manny will deliver with consistent and prominent play from the start. No running backs will be getting past him easily.
Shuffles and Scuffles at Nose Tackle
Shuffling drills is something that every lineman is more than aware of, but they’ve been shuffling a little different this year. While the defensive line is full of talent, much of it is raw.
This has led defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi to tinker with the players in new positions. Both Manny and Bronson Kaufusi have practiced and played at nose tackle, but have always found personal niches at the end spot.
For a while Marques Johnson and Freshman Tuni Kanuch were battling for the nose tackle spot, but the never ending story of BYU’s defensive injuries plagued Kanuch. He suffered a pectoral muscle tear, giving way for Johnson to take the position for good.
While good for Johnson, it’s bad for the defense. Now BYU is down to two healthy nose tackles with the other one being true freshman Merrill Taliauli.
This is causing Bronco Mendenhall to shuffle around the defensive front even more as they attempt to spread talent and depth around the line.
Other Defensive Linemen
While Kaufusi, Manny, and Johnson make a strong starting lineup, BYU will need solid contributions from the reserves. Here is a quick look at them.
- Parker Dawe: True freshman from Pleasant Grove, Utah.
- Michael Doman: A sophomore from Portland, Oregon saw action in one game last year (Weber State).
- Austin Holt: Junior. Moved over from tight end after redshirting last season to fully recover from the knee injury he suffered near the end of the 2011 season.
- Theodore King: Redshirt freshman from San Jose, California. Plays defensive end.
- Tomasi Laulile: True freshman from Westlake, California.
- Remington Peck: Sophomore who is a little on the small side (250 pounds), but showed flashes last year that he could still be effective at that size—like Jan Jorgensen was.
- JonRyheem Peoples: True freshman from Rigby, Idaho. Listed at 339 pounds, may need to lose a little weight to be effective.
- Logan Taele: Sophomore from St. George, Utah.
- Kalolo Utu: Junior College transfer from Compton Community College.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that this line will perform up to expectations. At the same time there will be no exceeding of those expectations.That’s not really a surprise considering those expectations are to repeat as the nation’s 3rd best defense in total offense, scoring defense, and red-zone defense, as well as 2nd in rushing defense, and 1st in 3rd down conversion defense.
As long as our players stay healthy these same numbers have a good chance at repeating this year.
Of course a lot this will depend on how well the linebackers perform, but with every opponent focused on stopping Kyle Van Noy blockers will moved and holes will be opened giving way for Kaufusi, Manny, and Johnson to become one of the best defensive lines in the country.
Van Noy got a lot of help from Ziggy being the distraction last year. This year the roles will switch as Kyle takes all the distraction and gives this line all that it needs to be just as mean and nasty as last year.
We’ve got all that we need.
By Tanner Spear
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