BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki says the Cougars have major holes to fill on their defensive line as standouts Khyiris Tonga, Zac Dawe and Bracken El Bakri all graduated and Seleti Fevaleaki entered the transfer portal. | Kelsey Brunner, Deseret News
Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki says a rugged early schedule will test BYU’s defensive front, which is thin and inexperienced
Major 2020 contributors and starters Khyiris Tonga, Zac Dawe and Bracken El Bakri are in the NFL, at least for the time being, and rising star Seleti Fevaleaki is in the transfer portal.
In other words, BYU’s defensive line in 2021 figures to be the most inexperienced position group on the team. Of the nine defensive linemen on the depth chart the Cougars finished the season with last year when they pummeled Central Florida in the Boca Raton Bowl, only five are back.
Is that keeping defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki up at night?
“I sleep pretty well,” Tuiaki said at BYU’s Football Media Day last month in his familiar, laid-back style.
Of course, that was before news broke that Fevaleaki was in the portal. The redshirt freshman returned missionary from Centennial High in Corona, California, appeared in 10 games during BYU’s 11-1 season, making six tackles and a sack (against Navy).
“No question, we are young there (at defensive line). There are a lot of young players that don’t have a lot of playing time that are going to have to step up.” — BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki.
Still, Tuiaki hinted at the time that his defense could be losing an expected contributor shortly, and Fevaleaki was not on the post-spring depth chart distributed on June 17. Fevaleaki, who was recruited by Tuiaki and head coach Kalani Sitake when they were at Utah and then Oregon State, but followed them to Provo after a church mission to Saint Louis, Missouri, had been in the program since 2017 and was finally beginning to show his potential.
“One of the kids that played for us (last year) and was going to be a really good player may not be with us,” Tuiaki said. “But that is still up in the air, so I don’t want to talk about him.”
Assuming he doesn’t return, Fevaleaki will be missed — especially during a year when BYU’s depth will be tested early. The Cougars open the season on Sept. 4 against Arizona in Las Vegas, then host Utah, Arizona State and South Florida on successive Saturdays before playing at Utah State on Friday, Oct. 1.
October is just as difficult, with Boise State, Baylor, Washington State and Virginia on the docket that month, along with the Aggies.
Stopping the run will be tough against those teams — especially the Utes and Sun Devils — and BYU is nowhere near as equipped to do that as it was last year. There are pass-rushing concerns as well.
“No question, we are young there,” Tuiaki said. “There are a lot of young players that don’t have a lot of playing time that …read more
Source:: Deseret News – Sports News
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