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BYU football notebook: Alani Fua leads a promising group of outside linebackers

Published: Friday, July 31 2015 1:58 p.m. MDT

Boise State Broncos running back Jay Ajayi (27) is tackled by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Alani Fua (5) during a game at Lavell Edwards Stadium on Friday, October 25, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Boise State Broncos running back Jay Ajayi (27) is tackled by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Alani Fua (5) during a game at Lavell Edwards Stadium on Friday, October 25, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

PROVO — Soft-spoken and undersized for all of his collegiate career, Alani Fua seems poised for a breakout year leading a young but very promising group of outside linebackers.

Throughout fall camp, Fua has been a mainstay with the first-team defense and an outside linebacker spot and is doing his part behind the scenes to lead a fresh new crop of linebackers. Leading is a new thing for Fua, who has spent his time at BYU playing primarily a backup role.

“It’s a little different because last year you had Kyle there, so all the attention was on him, and I’m kind of flying under the radar,” Fua said. “But now I’m one of the only guys who have been (here) for a while … a lot more attention is on me to help out the younger guys. It’s a little different, but it’s good.”

What is also different about Fua is his size. While struggling to maintain weight since arriving at BYU, Fua says his size is now ideal entering the season.

Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Alani Fua (5) tries to block a Idaho State Bengals quarterback Justin Arias (18) pass during a game at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, November 16, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Alani Fua (5) tries to block a Idaho State Bengals quarterback Justin Arias (18) pass during a game at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, November 16, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

“I’m 235 (pounds) right now, which is as heavy as I’ve ever been,“ Fua said. “Keeping it on is the (hard) thing, but they’re feeding me good at Legends (Grille), so it’s helping me keep it on.”

Fua is still acclimating to his current stature, but feels it will benefit him taking on blockers and stacking up against the run.

“I feel a little more tired out there, but speed wise, and everything (else), I think I’m the same, so it‘s not too bad” he said about playing with the added weight.

Fresh faces impressing

Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Alani Fua (5) stretches to try and reach Utah State Aggies running back Joey DeMartino (28) in the first half at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Alani Fua (5) stretches to try and reach Utah State Aggies running back Joey DeMartino (28) in the first half at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

As mentioned, the outside linebacker position includes a trio of highly touted true freshmen who have so far lived up to their hype. Those three freshmen are Troy Hinds, Fred Warner and Tyler Cook, and all of them are set to contribute immediately this season, according to coaches and players.

As for Fua, he's definitely been impressed with what he's seen from all three.

“They’re doing good so far,” Fua said. “Assignment wise they’re still coming along, but athletically, and just football-player-wise, they’re amazing. They’re great athletes. It’s kind of amazing how athletic the incoming freshmen are. Each year they keep getting better and better.”

Separation at safety

One of the big story lines this fall practice session is who will emerge at the safety position to start opposite two-year starter Craig Bills. While defensive coaches have been a bit cryptic in stating a leader for the spot, coach Bronco Mendenhall gave indication of who is looking best following Tuesday's practice.

"The player who has done a really nice job so far is (Kai) Nacua, which we hadn't expected," said Mendenhall. "If we were to say today, he's the one I would say has the inside track (to start.)"

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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