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The Lowdown: 2020 Sack Lake City

Oct 13, 2020

Throughout fall camp, UtahUtes.com will feature "The Lowdown" on each position group on the field.

THE LOWDOWN
With three of Utah's starting defensive linemen from 2019 being taken in the NFL Draft, the Utes will look to revamp Sack Lake City with one returning starter and an influx of youth and talent that has been waiting for a chance to shine.

HEADLINERS RETURNING
Utah has one returning starter on the defensive line in junior Mika Tafua. Tafua started in 13 games in 2019, recording 47 tackles (8.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks) with a team-leading four fumbles recovered to earn All-Pac-12 honorable mention. Seniors Viane Moala, Maxs Tupai, Hauati Pututau and Pita Tonga all will enter their final year with the program, with Tupai claiming nine career starts.

PRE-CAMP DEFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART

Left End Athlete GP/GS
42 Mika Tafua (6-3, 250, Jr.) 25/19
46 Miki Suguturaga (6-4, 260, R-Fr.)   OR 2/0
44 Xavier Carlton (6-6, 260, Fr.)          OR 0/0
58 Junior Tafuna (6-3, 255, Fr.) 0/0
Left Tackle Athlete GP/GS
41 Hauati Pututau (6-3, 310, Sr.) 39/1
96 Tanoa Togiai (6-6, 310, Fr.) 0/0
Right Tackle Athlete GP/GS
98 Viane Moala (6-6, 323, Sr.) 13/0
49 Pita Tonga (6-1, 310, Sr.) 34/6
Right End Athlete GP/GS
92 Maxs Tupai (6-1, 265, Sr.) 31/9
91 Blake Kuithe (6-3, 255, So.)    OR 0/0
7 Van Fillinger (6-4, 255, Fr.)      OR 0/0
90 Devin Kaufusi (6-7, 270, Jr.) 25/3

COACH KYLE WHITTINGHAM SAYS
"We took a big hit up front with the loss of three NFL caliber players, but we feel like we have a strong corps of returnees and newcomers that will keep the defensive line performing to the high standard that has long been a hallmark of our program. At the end positions, Mika Tafua proved to be a play-maker as a full-time starter last season, and Maxs Tupai has seen significant snaps in his career. Inside, there is a mix of experienced players as well as a group of young talent that will compete to earn both starting positions and depth in our rotations."

QUICK HITS ON UTAH'S HEADLINING RETURNERS

42 :: Mika Tafua :: Defensive End :: Laie, Hawaii
Honorable mention All-Pac-12 as a sophomore in 2019, playing in all 14 games at right end (13 starts) … tied for the FBS lead with four fumbles recovered last season, tying for fourth all-time at Utah in single-season fumble recoveries … 47 tackles (8.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks) in 2019 … earned Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week after returning a fumble recovery for 68 yards to the end zone against UCLA last season … also played in 11 games with six starts his redshirt freshman season in 2018.

92 :: Maxs Tupai :: Defensive End :: Taylorsville, Utah
31 games played is the second most on the current defensive line … has earned the starting nod in nine career games … played in all 14 games in 2019, racking up 21 tackles (3.5 TFL, 1.0 sack) … had a breakout year in 2018, playing in 12 games with eight starts at left end … had 32 tackles that year (6.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) … career-high nine tackles came against Arizona in 2018, also recording a pass breakup in the game .

41 :: Hauati Pututau :: Defensive Tackle :: Salt Lake City, Utah
Has played in 39 career games with the Utes, the most by anyone on the current defensive line … played in all 14 games in 2019, coming away with seven tackles and three pass breakups … saw action in every game in 2018, notching 19 tackles (4.0 TFL, 1.0 sack) with three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries … career-high four tackles against both USC and Arizona … first-career interception came against Stanford in 2018.

98 :: Viane Moala :: Defensive Tackle :: Ili'ili, American Samoa
Made an immediate impact in 2019 after sitting out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules … played in all 14 games in 2019, recording 14 tackles … had four tackles and a pass breakup against Idaho State in 2019 … played in 24 games with eight starts at the University of Hawaii from 2016-17, earning All-Mountain West honorable mention in 2017 … racked up 50 total tackles (6.5 TFL) during his time at Hawaii.

49 :: Pita Tonga :: Defensive Tackle :: Taylorsville, Utah
Has played in 34 games for the Utes, starting six games in 2018 … played in 10 games in 2019 as a reserve linemen, grabbing three tackles vs. NIU and an interception against UCLA … played in 13 games in 2018 as a sophomore, recording 12 tackles (3.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks) … also had an interception in 2018, running it back for 21 yards against Washington … saw action in 11 games in 2017 as a redshirt freshman while battling an injury late in the season.

QUICK HITS ON UTAH'S KEY NEWCOMERS

7 :: Van Fillinger :: Defensive End :: Draper, Utah
Four-star recruit out of Corner Canyon HS, finishing his career as a two-time first-team all-state and three-time all-region selection … rated the No. 11 strong side defensive end in the country and the No. 2 overall player in Utah by 247Sports coming out of high school … led Corner Canyon to a 37-1 record during his time on the field, winning two state championships.

90 :: Devin Kaufusi :: Defensive End :: Provo, Utah
Transferred to Utah from BYU where he saw action in 25 games over two seasons … had 10 total tackles in 2019 with two pass breakups and a fumble recovery, grabbing a career-high three tackles against Liberty … was a first-team all-state selection at Timpview HS, recording 82 tackles as a senior with 14.0 sacks, 10 passes defended and two fumble recoveries.

44 :: Xavier Carlton :: Defensive End :: Herriman, Utah
Four-star recruit on 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN out of Juan Diego Catholic HS … first-team all-state as a senior … rated the No. 12 strongside defensive end in the country by Rivals … Trans-Valley League Outstanding Defensive Lineman and Bee All-District as a junior at Modesto Christian HS in California where he played three years before moving to Utah … invites to the 2020 All-American Bowl and the 2020 Polynesian Bowl.

58 :: Junior Tafuna :: Defensive End :: Taylorsville, Utah
Three-star recruit out of Bingham HS, ranked No. 7 in the state of Utah coming out of high school … second-team all-state as a senior … recorded 64 tackles (1.0 sack) and an interception in 2018, also grabbing 74 tackles and an interception in 2017 as a junior … helped Bingham to two state championships … invited to the 2019 Polynesian Bowl.

96 :: Tanoa Togiai :: Defensive Tackle :: Rigby, Idaho
Three-star recruit out of Rigby HS … first-team all-state as a senior … rated the No. 3 recruit in the state of Idaho out of high school … 2019 5A High Country Defensive Player of the Year and 2018 first-team all-conference … helped his team to a state championship in 2019 … invited to play in the 2020 Polynesian Bowl.