Part 3 - Defensive Line
In 2012, the BYU Cougars were a Jekyll and Hyde team, with one of the most dominating defenses in school history paired with an offense that largely struggled, in spite of flashes of ability and some playmakers in the skill positions. Even with the offensive struggles, BYU was in each of their five losses a year ago deep into the fourth quarter, with the majority of those games coming down to the last possession. But a loss is a loss, and Bronco Mendenhall ultimately addressed the issue by changing out much of the offensive coaching staff and rehiring offensive coordinator Robert Anae. With one of the more challenging schedules BYU has ever had on tap for 2013, the BYU will need to continue to play great defense and improve on the other side of the ball to be successful.
When considering players who would have started all season but were injured along the way and players who started at least six games, BYU has 14 full-year starters coming back in 2013. There are 8 returning starters on offense, while 6 starters return on defense, along with 6 other players who also started at least one game at some point during the 2012 season. Defensive Line:
Perhaps the unit hurt the most by losing players to graduation after 2012, the defensive line does return one stalwart starter and a couple of exciting young players. Still, replacing the likes of Ziggy Ansah, Romney Fuga, and Russell Tialavea is no small task. Ansah, of course, will be playing in the NFL in 2013, while Fuga and Tialavea both started every year they played for the Cougars. With that kind of experience lost, there is some definite rebuilding to be done along the dline.Personnel:
The sole returning starter is redshirt senior Eathyn Manumaleuna, who started 4 games last year before going down to injury and taking a medical redshirt. Of course, prior to last season Manumaleuna was a three year starter and the hero of the Las Vegas Bowl back in 2007. In the 4 appearances in 2012, he had 11 tackles with 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 pass broken up.
Other defensive linemen that return with playing experience include Bronson Kaufusi, Remington Peck, Austin Holt, Justin Blackmore, and Michael Doman. Kaufusi, a true sophomore, had a big freshman year in 2012 as a backup, playing in every game with 23 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 pass broken up. A redshirt sophomore, Peck played in 9 games last year with 7 tackles and 1 sack. Holt is a redshirt junior who has converted to defensive end from tight end. Blackmore is a redshirt junior who appeared in 1 game last year but did not record a statistic. The true sophomore Doman appeared in 1 game last year and also did not record a statistic.
Dlineman who have been on the team but without playing time are redshirt junior Marques Johnson, true sophomore Logan Taele, and redshirt freshman Theodore King.
Newcomers to the defensive line include returning missionary freshmen Tuni Kanuch and Sae Tautu; and incoming scholarship freshmen Tomasi Laulile, Addison Pulsipher, and Merrill Taliauli. JonRyheem Peoples may also play on the defensive line.Projected Starters:
The wild card question for the 2013 season along the dline is where Eathyn Manumaleuna ends up playing. Manumaleuna has experience all along the line, but has most recently played along the end. With the major losses on the dline, it appears that his services will be necessary at nose tackle, a position at which he won distinction in 2007. Coming out of spring camp, the two ends are the two players one would expect considering last season's rotation. Bronson Kaufusi appears at left end and Remington Peck at right end.
Of the two players listed as backups for Manumaleuna, one of them may seize the starting job and allow him to move back to end. Those players are Marques Johnson and Tuni Kanuch. Listed behind Kaufusi are Michael Doman and Austin Holt. Backing up Peck is Logan Taele.Outlook:
In spite of the major losses of the dline from a year ago, the outlook is still reasonably bright. Manumaleuna returns, and Kaufusi put up very impressive numbers in limited time last season, while Peck also had some moments. While the group as a whole may not be quite as strong as in 2012, they should not be drastically weaker, either. The real question is whether the younger players who will rotate in can match the contributions of the new frontliners. If they can, the dline should again be solid for the Cougars. Injury could quickly change the picture.Defensive Summary:
Since Bronco Mendenhall took back over as defensive coordinator, the BYU defense has been a force to be reckoned with. Given the number of players that are back from a truly outstanding defense last year, Cougar fans can expect a good, and possibly great, defense again in 2013. Certainly if the younger players are able to acclimate quickly and learn their roles, then the defense should continue to dominate. When considering how successful Mendenhall has been historically with getting new players ready and always getting the most out of his players, it seems more likely than not that the BYU defense will once again cause opponents all kinds of trouble. While there are a few holes to fill from a year ago, there are some players who have done well in spot time. Combined with the returning players who have another year of experience, the defense is in good shape.
You can read Part 2, Linebackers, here: http://www.cougarboard.com/board/message.html?id=10767331
And Part 1, Defensive Backs, here: http://www.cougarboard.com/board/message.html?id=10764744