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BYU spring practice preview: Defensive line

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 9:38 p.m. MDT

BYU's Eathyn Manumaleuna, left and Romney Fuga run on BYU's first day of spring football practice Monday, March 5, 2012, in Provo, Utah.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) BYU's Eathyn Manumaleuna, left and Romney Fuga run on BYU's first day of spring football practice Monday, March 5, 2012, in Provo, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

This is part four of a six-part series previewing the various positions of BYU's football team leading in to spring football. In this piece, Brandon Gurney takes a look at the Cougars' defensive line. In part three, Brandon reviewed the receivers.

PROVO — The BYU defensive line for this spring includes some big holes to be filled, a key returning player and a host of up-and-comers intent on making a good impression. It’s a group that holds a lot of promise, but not a lot of collective experience.

Returning experience

BYU fans rejoiced when it was learned Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman would return for another year, but another key returnee is defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna. The Timpview product has started in each of his four seasons at BYU, but went down early due to injury last season and was granted a medical red shirt by the NCAA in a huge development for the 2013 defense.

Coaches would like to keep Manumaluena at defensive end, where he played last year, but may have to utilize him inside at the critical nose tackle position where Romney Fuga played so well last year. Manumaleuna has proven capable of playing at every defensive line position, which will be a huge boon to the group as a whole.

Bronson Kaufusi didn’t start but played extensively during the final stretch of 2012 and is expected to start at defensive end this season. The 6-foot-7 standout is currently playing with the basketball team and, as a result, most likely won’t join the football program until later on during the spring practice sessions.

Remington Peck (6-4, 236) saw some good experience last season as a freshman and will likely see a lot of reps at defensive end during spring.

Up-and-comers

As mentioned in the receivers preview, Austin Holt is strongly considering a move to defensive end for his final two seasons. His progress will be worth noting throughout the spring regardless of whether he’s donning the defensive white jersey or the offense’s blue.

Marques Johnson could add significantly to the depth at nose tackle and should be set for a lot of reps during spring. The 6-foot-2, 321 junior has been quiet on the contribution since transferring from El Camino junior college and red shirted last season.

Theodore King (6-3, 252) spent last season on the scout team as a freshman, but will work to break the two-deep roster starting this spring.

Tui Crichton (6-3, 343) was switched to the offensive line last season, and it’s unclear whether he’ll stay there or switch back to defense. We’ll be sure to note where Crichton is playing and how he’s progressing throughout the practice session.

Other potential contributors include walk-ons Justin Blackmore (6-1, 290) and Michael Doman (6-4, 240), among others.

Returned missionaries

Tuni Kanuch returns and could contribute heavily at the nose tackle position this coming season. The 6-foot-2, 290 former Bingham Miner was a big-time prospect whom coaches are pegging as an immediate contributor as a true freshman.

Sae Tautu played at linebacker before his LDS mission, but is expected to compete at defensive end upon return. The former Lone Peak Knight gained significant weight over two years and should play at over 250 for the remainder of his career.

The defensive line should be boosted considerably in fall when players such as Kalolo Utu (6-2, 250), JonRyheem Peoples, Merrill Taliauli and Tomasi Laulile join the program.

This is part four of a six-part series previewing the various positions of BYU's football team leading in to spring football. In this piece, Brandon Gurney takes a look at the Cougars' defensive line. In part three, Brandon reviewed the receivers.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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