Sorting out the two-deep on defense

PROVO — With the conclusion of fall practices, coaches have largely determined which players will play and in what capacity. No, they don’t plan on releasing a two-deep until just before the first game against Washington State, but it’s become somewhat apparent which players it will consist of.

I’ve been to all but one practice session this fall and feel I have a pretty good idea of which players will be making up that two-deep roster. Here’s an overview of the expected two-deep roster on defense:

Defensive line

Right End–Eathyn Manumaleuna, 6-2, 288, Sr./Remington Peck, 6-4, 236 Fr.

Nose tackle–Romney Fuga, 6-2, 318 Sr./Mike Muehlmann, 6-4, 268 Jr.

Left End–Ian Dulan, 6-1, 271 Sr./Russell Tialavea, 6-3, 265 Sr.

Note: There will largely be a four-man rotation along the defensive front with Tialavea and Manumaleuna both potentially seeing time at nose tackle. Based on its success last season, look for Coach Bronco Mendenhall to go with a 2-4-5 alignment against pass-happy offenses, starting with Washington State.

Other options: Tui Crichton (6-3, 343 Fr.) is someone who could see reps at nose tackle while Bronson Kaufusi (6-7, 260 Fr.) is someone who is coming on strong and could see time at defensive end. Ezekial Ansah (6-6, 270 Sr.) was tried out at end during fall practices, and could be used there primarily during passing situations.

Inside linebacker

Mike linebacker–Uona Kaveinga, 5-11, 233, Sr./Zac Stout, 6-1, 217 So. or Austen Jorgensen, 6-2, 239 Sr.

Buck linebacker–Brandon Ogletree, 5-11, 228 Sr./Manoa Pikula, 6-1, 235 Fr. or Tyler Beck 6-1, 220 Jr.

Note: Uani Unga (6-1, 233) is right there as an option to play at both inside linebacker positions. It’s the most stacked position on the football team with many options Coach Paul Tidwell is comfortable with.

Other options: Due to the position’s strength, players such as Butch Pau’u (6-0, 211 Fr.) and Rhett Sandlin (6-2, 213 Fr.) will be hard-pressed for playing time although they have shown well during practices.

Outside linebacker

Sam linebacker–Spencer Hadley, 6-1, 227 Jr./Alani Fua, 6-5, 215 So.

Will linebacker–Kyle Van Noy, 6-3, 235 Jr./Ezekial Ansah, 6-6, 270 Sr. or Lene Lesatele, 6-2, 238 Fr.

Note: Fans can expect a fairly consistent rotation at Sam linebacker with Van Noy rarely leaving the field on the other side. When and how much Ansah will be used after completing a quiet fall practice session holds some intrigue.

Other options: Kevan Bills (6-3, 245 Fr.) saw some good practice reps early on and could become a factor along with Teu Kautai (6-1, 219 Fr.) True freshman Jherremya Leuta-Douyere (6-2, 236) is also an option.


Field corner–Jordan Johnson, 5-10, 185 So./DeQuan Everett, 6-3, 209 Sr.

Boundary corner–Preston Hadley, 6-0, 200 Sr./Skye PoVey, 5-11, 200 Jr.

Note: Senior Robbie Buckner is yet to practice and would provide backup duty behind Johnson at field if healthy.

Other options: Although the starters look solid, there isn’t a lot of depth at both cornerback positions. Adam Hogan (5-11, 180 Jr.) and Micah Hannemann (6-1, 185 Fr.) are likely the next two options for backup duty.


Free safety–Joe Sampson, 5-10, 203 Sr./Mike Hague, 5-10, 190 Sr. or Craig Bills, 6-1, 209 So.

Kat safety–Daniel Sorensen, 6-2, 215 Jr./Craig Bills, 6-1, 209 So.

Note: BYU should be using a nickel formation extensively this season with Bills and Hague looking to fill-in as the primary nickel back.

Other options: Like at corner, the options are limited at both safety positions beyond the two-deep roster. Matt Hadley (6-0, 190 Fr.) has looked good in spots, but isn’t someone you’d look at to garner playing time given his inexperience.


  1. Ryan

    Muehlmann at NT? Oh, I hope not. I thought he showed pretty well at end during the reps he got there last season, but he is not built like an NT at all. I’m sure Manumaleuna will slide over if Fuga gets hurt, with Tialavea taking over at RE.

      • Evan

        The NT position this year reminds of what happened in 2010 when Fuga went down….we could NOT stop the run! I think we’re in trouble if he gets chopped blocked again.

    • Brandon Gurney

      turns out that is a very timely question. Bronco just informed the media that Cameron Comer has withdrawn from school and Buckner has taken his spot on the 105

  2. Jeff

    Seems like in the past couple years the opposing QB has had days of time in the pocket and blitzes were rarely called. Will our D front be able to provide some pressure this year? Or can we expect the same?

    • Brandon Gurney

      pass rush was better last year with Bronco being more creative with his blitz packages…I’d expect the same this year although the team still lacks a proven pass-rushing DE

      • BigCougar

        Don’t mean to disagree with you Gman but the pass rush has been pretty anemic for years. Last year we managed 24 sacks and the year before an identical 24 sacks.

      • Brandon Gurney

        That stat surprised me as I thought the pass rush was much more effective last year, but hey, numbers don’t lie.

  3. Rex

    Last night on byutv, Bronco seemed almost breathless about Ziggy Ansah’s pass rushing ability, and didn’t think anybody could block him, yet he barely appears on your two deep assessment. Is he going to play or is he a ghost?

    • Brandon Gurney

      I don’t know who you’d play Ziggy over the guys I have listed as starters. The team largely plays how they practice and Ziggy hasn’t been all that involved. I do think you’ll see him used during passing situations, but sparingly during other situations.

  4. Kameron

    The question arises. What does two deep really mean? Last year, we heard throughout pre-season that BYU was three deep at every position. Is being deep relative to who are the opponents or the league?

    Utah is being questioned on their depth but most believe they will beat the Cougars by a lot.

    What is depth?

    • Brandon Gurney

      Who was saying that BYU was “three-deep” at every position? A two-deep roster is a normal thing coaches put out prior to every year and prior to every game. It doesn’t speak to the ability of those backups to sub in, but only that they’ll be the ones slated to sub in.

      It seems as if you’re implying that the word was BYU could go three-deep at every position and not experience much dropoff last season? I can’t imagine anyone was implying that.

  5. Tony

    I seem to recall that Muehlmann was originally recruited as a TE. Am I wrong? I was surprised to see him showing up on the DL. I am a little concerned about size on the DL, height as well as weight (except for Fuga at NT). I hope they have the athleticism to make up for it.

  6. Casey

    Who assigns the star ratings on the high school players on total blue sports? Is that something you vote on? Also is there a way to track high school players stats?

    • Brandon Gurney

      Star-rankings are given out by the national experts on for its web site and rivals for theirs. It’s a very flawed system, but it’s the best evaluation system out there for public consumption.

  7. Steve

    How does our offense compare to last years? Has Bronco got the players he needs to put together a great team yet?

    • Brandon Gurney

      I believe the offense has much more identity and self-awareness this year. They’re also much more experienced. He definitely has the players to put together a great defense, but I’m not all that sure about the offense.

  8. Dennis

    It seems our inside linebackers are kinda small 5’11 225-230, most offensive lines are 5 guys 6’4 300 lbs, perhaps this is why we don’t get alot of sacks, especially from the inside.

Leave a comment encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.