After previewing some of the offensive guys to watch in Spring ball, we shift over to the defensive side of the ball.
BYU’s defense was in the middle of the pack nationally last season, but was underwhelming at times against top-level teams. Now in year three of Kalani Sitake’s and Ilaisa Tuiaki’s defensive scheme, expectations will be higher for the defense to carry the team to a winning season.
Here are 5 guys to watch this spring:
Langi Tuifua, DE
A 4-star recruit in BYU’s 2017 class, Tuifua will be expected to deliver in his true sophomore season. Tuifua is undersized for a college defensive lineman, but he can be an elite pass rusher, something BYU desperately needs. If Tuifua can put on some weight, he has the potential to lead BYU in sacks.
With Sione Takitaki expected to move to OLB, Tuifua has a big opportunity to make an impact on BYU’s defensive line.
Wayne Tei-Kirby, DT
After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, the Oregon transfer will look to be one of the starting defensive tackles alongside Khyris Tonga. Kirby came on really strong towards the end of his freshman season at Oregon, including a big fumble recovery that helped seal a Ducks upset win at Utah.
With Tevita Mo’unga looking to return from injury, BYU’s interior line looks like it will be one of the strengths of the defense.
Christian Folau, LB
An Oregon State signee before his mission, Folau redshirted last season and came to BYU to follow Kalani. Folau was a 4-star recruit out of high school and had offers from the likes of Wisconsin, Washington, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Cal, Utah, Vanderbilt, and a host of others.
Folau will likely play inside linebacker, and will push for immediate playing time behind senior linebacker Butch Pau’u. With a full year in the program under his belt, Folau has a chance to make a name for himself in spring.
Trevion Greene, CB
A JUCO tranfer, Greene played in 10 games last season as a reserve cornerback. At 6’3 and 200 pounds, the junior corner has impressive measurables for his position. Coach Ed Lamb said that starting CB Dayan Ghanwoloku will get reps at safety position during spring, meaning Greene will have a chance to seize a starting CB spot if he plays well enough.
Troy Warner will likely be limited with a foot injury (he could get a look at safety too), so the door is wide open for Greene to make an impression on coaches.
Zayne Anderson, DB/LB
Anderson is the lone guy on this list that was a starter last season. As one of BYU’s starting safeties, Anderson was BYU’s fifth-leading tackler and tied for the lead in interceptions. With Fred Warner gone, BYU will give Anderson a look at linebacker during spring.
Anderson is one of the fastest players on the team, which could give BYU an exciting playmaker at that outside linebacker position. Anderson will need to put on some weight to deal with the rigors of being a linebacker, but BYU would likely use him in a nickel/olb role if he does indeed switch positions.
With Dayan experimenting at safety, coaches seem to be giving guys looks at different spots in an effort to get the best 11 on the field.
Others to Watch: Keanu Saleapaga (DL), Alden Tofa (DL), Lorenzo Fauatea (DL). Yeah, there’s a lot of young talent on BYU’s defensive front.