One of the bright spots of Utah's spring football drills has been the play of defensive tackle Lei Talamaivao.

That's Lay Tal-a-my-vow if you want to make sure you say it correctly.

Talamaivao, a redshirt freshman from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., has received praise all spring from both head coach Kyle Whittingham and defensive coordinator Gary Andersen.

"He's doing a nice job," Andersen said. "He's a very talented young man, has great size and great athletic ability. He's a very gifted athlete and runs well. He's got everything you want — he's fast, he's got good hands, he's got good instincts and he's very coachable and very teachable."

Talamaivao is getting the chance to play the nose tackle position vacated by Gabe Long, who was eighth on the team in tackles last year and second in sacks.

Andersen said there's "no question" Talamaivao will be one of Utah's main defensive lineman this fall. He said if the defense plays 70 snaps a game, Talamaivao will likely play a minimum of 35 snaps and as many as 55.

"I'm high on Lei," he said. "Now the challenge that he has to take — and I have to take — is developing him to be able to play with technique every snap and allow him to be able to know the plays well enough that he can play fast. He's done a nice job of taking those steps this spring."

Besides Talamaivao, others in the four-man rotation at this point are returning starter Kenape Eliapo, Aaron Tonga and Isley Filiaga, with freshman David Kruger having a chance to challenge for a spot in the fall.

Talamaivao feels like he's had a good spring but needs to work on his technique and getting experience.

"I'm just trying to make plays and learn my job and get the little things right," he said. "Overall, we're getting better. We can always improve on our techniques. We can always get better, but the bottom line is, I'm improving."

At Rancho Cucamonga High School, Talamaivao was all-state, all-CIF and all-Inland Valley as well as league MVP. He said he chose to come to Utah because of the coaching staff and "Coach A" (Andersen) in particular.

"The thing I like about Utah is they get us ready and care for the players," he said. "They put us first. It's a great team, and I'm just proud to be here."

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