One can argue that experience is always better than youth, but what happens when you’re able to combine the two? Meshing knowledge gained through experience with the enthusiasm of youth would definitely help sustain a culture already established. And that’s exactly what senior defensive linemen Ian Dulan, Romney Fuga and Eathyn Manumaleuna want to ensure transpires with the younger players coming up.
“We want to set an example for the younger generation coming up on the team,” Manumaleuna said. “We have a lot of seniors on the defensive line, and so there are a lot of guys that look up to us because of that and all the experience we have.
“It’s been up to us to establish a mentality to kind of set the tradition for the younger guys so they’ll know what’s expected when we’re gone. We have to instill that within their minds, and they’re coming along and want to make that transition for those guys.”
To get a head start in helping the younger defensive linemen become more immersed within the culture, things have changed this year.
“This year is different than in years past,” Manumaleuna said. “This year we brought in our younger guys a lot sooner and have been working out with them throughout the summer.”
The experience and tried and tested expertise of Dulan, Fuga and Manumaleuna can be put to good use. By having the younger players come in early over the summer, the seniors have acted as proxy coaches.
“We’re all kind of like coaches and have to be more like that,” said Manumaleuna. “We all know who they are and know their strengths and weaknesses. It’s great to have a feel of who they are as far as their strengths and weaknesses and know what we can improve on going into fall camp. It’s been good because us as older guys can kind of help influence the younger guys to know what’s expected. It gives us more time to be with them to see us, and vice versa.”
Let’s take a look as some of the players that have been involved in learning the ropes from some of the more refined seniors on the team.
During the recruiting season, 6-foot-3-inch, 250-pound Theodore King, who played his prep-ball at Valley Christian Schools, flew way under the radar. Last January, King committed to BYU and has been involved with working out with the team over the summer.
“Theodore King is doing a great job,” Manumaleuna said. “He’s been working really hard and you can tell he wants to get better. He wants to get out there and he loves football, so he brings a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.
“You can tell he’s really smart and wants to be a student of the game, and that’s a good thing to have when you’re young because you want to learn as much as you can. That’s how he is. Theodore wants to learn from us and always improve his game. So, we’ve been working with him a lot and he’s been improving every day.”
Also a member of the 2012 recruiting class is 6-foot-2-inch, 305-pound Marques Johnson. Johnson signed with BYU as a midyear transfer out of El Camino College just three days before Christmas in 2011. He chose BYU over Indiana and Washington State after recording 31 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, and five sacks.
“Marques Johnson is a new guy but I feel like he’s one of the older guys because he’s been here through spring,” said Manumaleuna. “We all love Marques and he has tremendous potential.”
Johnson, who has three years to play two, practiced at the nose guard position during spring camp but suffered a minor injury.
“He did get hurt in the spring but he’s back working out and going day by day,” Manumaleuna said. “I think he really understands a lot of what it takes to play here and is buying into it, so things like that helps us as some of the older players on the team draw closer to him.”
The third defensive lineman from the class of 2012 currently learning from the more experienced Cougars over the summer is Parris High School defensive star Tofi Taumata. The 6-foot-3-inch, 270-pound Taumata was a late qualifier and, much like King, flew way under the radar. In high school Taumata was already a beast in the weight room with a 300-pound bench and a 500-pound squat.
“Tofi is an incoming freshman from California and is working out really hard with us,” said Manumaleuna. “He’s really strong right now and physically he looks really good. He’s doing a great job and is really hungry.”
However, it’s Taumata’s willingness to compete and learn that has caught the attention of Manumaleuna.
“You know how all these rookies or younger guys are,” Manumaleuna said with a smile. “They come in fresh and excited with something to prove and that’s how he is, but to me that’s really good because it makes us as older guys want to prove something back. It keeps us on our toes and that’s how we help each other. I’ve been impressed with him and he’s doing a great job and just wants to get better and better. I’ve been really impressed.”
Seeing the newcomers’ youthful exuberance and willingness to learn has served to reinforce the motivation of the senior linemen. Manumaleuna wants to make sure he can pass on as much as he can to the younger generation who will be entrusted to carry on the legacy and culture of being a BYU defensive lineman.
“You’re always looking for things to further motivate you,” said Manumaleuna. “In thinking this is my last year, that is something that really motivates me because it’s more on my mind. I want to make sure that my motivation isn’t just about me but about the team.
“I want to make sure that I can pass down as much experience that I have and what I’ve learned playing here over the years from Coach Kaufusi to these guys. They’re understanding the culture that we want and what it takes to play here and be successful as a BYU defensive lineman. It’s going really good.”