It’s taken a while, but 6-foot-3-inch, 260-pound speed rush defensive end Vic So’oto could finally show Cougar fans what they’ve been waiting for. So far during spring camp, So’oto has put on a very impressive performance that is catching the eyes of all in attendance.
“Basically as far as the defense goes, the coaches wanted to put me on the right side because of my pass rushing abilities,” So’oto said. “I think it’s a good position for me because I can rush the quarterback from the blind side.”
One thing that So’oto has relished has been having bragging rights over some of his teammates that he’s raced and beaten. In fact, he’s beaten some very prominent Cougars in recent years. So, speed and quickness have been a strength of his, even more so now that he has lost some weight.
“I lost 16 pounds from last year and I can move a lot faster now,” said So’oto. “I felt fast before, but with the loss of the extra weight I’m able to move a lot faster now. I think that will really help me off the edge when I want to speed rush and try to get to that quarterback’s blindside.”
So’oto put some of his speed on display during Thursday’s practice. While rushing a quarterback making a throw, the ball was tipped and intercepted by a safety. A nearby wide receiver looked to make a play on the safety running the ball back in the defensive secondary when So’oto decleated him from his blind side. Players on the sidelined gasped following a loud pop from the hit. So’oto credits his added speed to his wife Ashley’s home cooking.
“Well, one reason why I’m faster is because once you get married your wife makes real food,” So’oto said with a laugh. “Now I don’t go out to eat at McDonalds and eat cheeseburgers anymore. Now I have a new meal plan and new diet and that came with me getting married.”
Also helping out So’oto is the fact that during practices he gets to face All-American offensive tackle Matt Reynolds.
“Going up against Matt Reynolds is always a good test for me,” said So’oto. “I know if I can go up against him and try and beat him in practice, it’s a real win in a game. That’s kind of how my mentality is. If I can go up against Matt I’m going to try really hard to beat him because it will be like a real win in a game, so when I’m facing him I go all out and hold nothing back. I have to try and beat him every time.”
Having a fast, mobile defensive end within the 3-4-4 defense is something that helps the defense as a whole.
“It helps so much having someone like Vic, who is just so fast and quick playing on the edge,” linebacker Jordan Pendleton said. “When you have someone as versatile as Vic, who is so quick, it really helps break down the offensive line and gets them out of rhythm. It forces them out of position and it really opens up holes for us as linebackers depending on what we we’re doing or what we want to do in a play.
“It really gives us a lot more options because we can take advantage of the problems created by someone with more speed and quickness on the outside of the d-line. It all works together much the same way in how an ability of an outside linebacker can help a cornerback.”
Knowing this is his last year to make an impact at BYU, So’oto has not taken a single play lightly. He sees much of that same internal disposition of his running through others on the defensive line.
“I think the characteristic of our d-line is one of feistiness,” said So’oto. “We’re all fighting out there and we’re going to be really tough and feisty. We’re all pulling for each other, and Matt Putnam is a great player and Romney Fuga is another great player. Being around guys like that, you just have to elevate your game, so with all of us being out there together we have to elevate our game. We’ve lost Jan [Jorgensen] from last year and he’s a big loss, but Matt Putnam and Romney Fuga were playing on the line last year and have another year under their belts. I think our d-line will be fast and strong with another year of experience.”
According to So’oto, the defensive line as a unit is hungry and eager to prove itself.
“That’s the thing about this d-line this year is we’re all hungry,” said So’oto with a serious tone in his voice. “None of us have been four-year starters, and Putnam and I have played off and on. Romney also played off and on in games behind Russell [Tialavea]. As far as we’re concerned we’re all new and we’re really hungry. We’re out here fighting and going up against guys like Matt Reynolds and a big, experienced offensive line, and we’re fighting.”
Meanwhile, Coach Kaufusi is adding a few wrinkles to the defensive line.
“I can’t really say too much about some things you’ve mentioned as far as what we’re doing out there during practice,” So’oto said with a smile. “We’ve got some quirks we’re doing, but I can’t say too much. One thing we are doing is kind of what was seen on the offensive line. Guys are being switched around to play all the different positions. Sometimes you’ll see Putnam at nose guard and sometimes I’ll play nose guard, and we’re pushing each other to be better at learning the different positions and responsibilities of each position on the d-line. I think when we want to do some different things, then we’ll already be familiar with what’s going on and what to do.”