2021 Players not returning: Marcus Moore (Graduation)
2022 post-spring ball attrition: James Hansen (Transferred to Nevada)
Returning players: Johnson Hansen, Bo Maile, Hale Motu’apuaka, Phill Paea, Aurion Peoples, Seni Tuiaki, Poukesi Vakauta
New Faces in 2022:
Tui Aiono 6’0″ 320 (NR) – Snow JC, UT – (Transfer; Preferred walk-on; 2 years to play 2)
2021 (So) Stats: 7 tackles 2.0 tackles-for-loss
2020 (So.) Stats: 8 tackles 1.5 tackles-for-loss 1 pass breakup
2019 (RsFr.) Stats: 14 tackles 2.0 tackles-for-loss 1 pass breakup
2018 (Fr.) Stats: Redshirted at Snow Junior College
Offers from: Campbell, Fort Hays St, Madonna University, Mount Marty, New Mexico Highlands
Primary Recruiter: DJ Tialavea
Tavian Coleman 6’2″ 285 (NR) – Trinity Valley CC, TX – (Transfer; 4 years to play 3)
2021 (Fr.) Stats: 57 tackles 11.0 tackles-for-loss 4.0 sacks 2 pass breakups
2020 (Fr.) Stats: 35 tackles 4.0 sacks 7.0 tackles-for-loss 1 fumble recovery 2 pass breakups
Offers from: Alcorn St, Austin Peay, McNeese St, North Alabama, Northwestern St, New Mexico St, Southern Illinois, Southeastern Louisiana, Tulsa
Primary Recruiter: Ephraim Banda
Adam Tomczyk 6’3″ 230 (247 3*) – Los Alamitos HS, CA
2021 (Sr.) Stats: 47 tackles 12.0 tackles-for-loss 10.0 sacks 1 forced fumble; 1 reception 6 yards 1 TD
2020 (Jr.) Stats: 31 tackles 8.0 tackles-for-loss 4.0 sacks 2 QB hurries 1 pass breakup
2019 (So.) Stats: 1 tackle
Offers from: Fordham
Primary Recruiter: Al Lapuaho, Alex Devine, Chris Labidou
In regards to the NCAA-mandated eligibility freeze from the 2020 season, what I’ve learned is the player’s eligibility will continue to accrue. Once the player reaches his 4th or 5th season, depending on if the player uses a redshirt season, the player will have the option to return to school for a 5th or 6th season and continue playing one more season. The player will then move from being listed as a senior (Sr.) to a graduate senior (Gr-Sr.)
1-TECHNIQUE DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Senior Hale Motu’apuaka enjoyed a breakout season last year. As a junior in 2021, Motu’apuaka started in all 14 games and racked up 26 tackles, 8.0 tackles-for-loss, and 2.5 sacks. As a sophomore in 2020, he played in all 6 games, starting in 2, and tallied 8 tackles and 1 blocked kick. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, he played in 12 of 13 games and totaled 13 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss. As a true freshman in 2018, he appeared in 2 games but did not record any stats and received a redshirt season. Motu’apuaka is quick off the snap and runs through opposing offensive linemen with relative ease. He can split through double teams to get into the backfield and stop the run. He has great hands and is a fast-twitch defensive lineman. He is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with as he commands a double-team on nearly every play. His strength is difficult for opposing offensive linemen to deal with. He has the talent to be an anchor on the defensive line throughout his career.
Making a surprising early move up the depth chart is sophomore Tavian Coleman. Coleman joined the Aggies in time for spring ball after transferring to Utah State from Trinity junior college and he has 4 years to complete his remaining 3 years of eligibility. As a covid-freshman at Trinity JC (TX) in the spring of 2021, he had a stellar season amassing 57 tackles, 11.0 tackles-for-loss, 4.0 sacks, and 2 pass breakups. As a true freshman in 2020, he tallied 35 tackles, 7.0 tackles-for-loss, 4.0 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 pass breakups. Coleman has a high motor and pushes through blocks to get into the backfield and finds a way to alter the play. He sees plays develop well and can react accordingly. He has a high football IQ and has rare physical ability for a player his size. He is incredibly strong and attacks opposing offenses with great force. He has the versatility to play both defensive tackle and defensive end. He should play a meaningful role right away this fall.
Competing to make an impact early in fall camp is redshirt junior Aurion Peoples. As a junior in 2021, Peoples sat out the season while redshirting. After beginning his collegiate career at a junior college, Peoples joined the Aggies in time to participate in spring ball of 2021. As a sophomore at College of the Canyons (CA) in 2020, he tallied 18 tackles, 3.0 tackles-for-loss, and 1.0 sacks. As a true freshman in 2018, he was credited with 19 tackles. Peoples is fast and explosive off the line of scrimmage. He excels at laying physical hits as he sheds blockers to stop the run game. He keeps a low center of gravity and is mobile, which allows him to fill in gaps and get to the opposing ball carrier in a hurry. He tackles well in space and is strong enough to fight through double teams. He will benefit from spending the last 18 months in the strength and conditioning program with Paul Jackson.
Redshirt freshman Johnson Hansen is looking forward to showing what he can do during his second fall camp. As a true freshman in 2021, Hansen saw action in 1 game but did not record any stats, while maintaining his redshirt status. Hansen returned from serving an LDS Church mission in time to join the Aggie in time for spring ball of 2021. As a senior at East High (UT) in 2017, he racked up 81 tackles. 14.5 sacks, and 1 interception. As a junior in 2016, he totaled 33 tackles 4.0 sacks and 1 interception. As a sophomore in 2015, he was credited with 8 tackles,1.0 sacks, and 1 interception. Hansen displays great strength and looks great as an interior defensive lineman. He has nice speed for someone of his size and doesn’t overpursue players, which often allows him to be in a good position to make a play. He has a good motor and is often able to chase opposing offensive players down from behind. He will benefit from spending the last 18 months in the strength and conditioning program with Paul Jackson.
Pushing to make an impression in his first collegiate fall camp is true freshman Adam Tomczyk. As a senior at Los Alamitos High (CA) in 2021, Tomczyk racked up 47 tackles, 12.0 tackles-for-loss, 10.0 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. As a junior in 2020, he rolled up 31 tackles, 8.0 tackles-for-loss, 4.0 sacks, 2 QB hurries, and 1 pass breakup. As a sophomore in 2019, he was credited with 1 tackle. Tomczyk is physically strong and he uses that to push back blockers to get into the opposing backfield. He initiates contact after the snap to gain the advantage and flies past opposing offensive linemen to disrupt plays. He stays low when moving around and doesn’t overpursue on plays. He has the versatility to play all over the defensive line at this level.
3-TECHNIQUE DEFENSIVE TACKLE
After missing spring ball, graduate senior Phill Paea is poised to have a huge season for the Aggies. As a senior in 2021, Paea played in all 14 games and logged 14 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss. Paea transferred to Utah State in the summer of 2021 after beginning his collegiate career at the University of Michigan. As a junior at Michigan in 2020, he saw action in 1 game. As a sophomore in 2019, he did not see any action. As a redshirt freshman in 2018, he saw action in 2 games but did not record any stats. As a true freshman in 2017, he spent the season redshirting. Paea is a big, physical and versatile athlete that could play multiple positions on the defensive line. He is a very strong, explosive player. In high school, he played both offensive guard and defensive tackle, and thanks to his wrestling background he has great athleticism. He has been singled out in the past for his amazing work ethic. He has the innate ability to extend his hips and get great leverage and power out of his lower body. He is as strong as you can be with his lower body and that allows him to unlock his hips and play with great force. He has the overall size to be a great run-stuffing defensive tackle.
Looking to have a solid 2022 season is junior Poukesi Vakauta. As a sophomore in 2021, he played in all 14 games and recorded 11 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. As a true freshman in 2020, he saw action in 1 game and was credited with 1 tackle and 0.5 tackles for loss. As a senior at Trinity High (TX) in 2019, Vakauta racked up 98 tackles, 7.0 tackles-for-loss, 5.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 14 QB hurries. He is from the same high school as former Aggie linebacker Tipa Galeai. Vakauta is built as a classic defensive tackle/nose guard. He is very talented in all the defensive line spots. He is strong at the point of attack and with being right around 6 feet tall he can get up under opposing offensive linemen and use his leverage to push the linemen back into the opposing backfield. He plays with a high motor and does not take plays off. He often makes plays just by keeping his head on a swivel and running down opposing offensive players.
Pushing to see the field early is redshirt freshman Seni Tuiaki. As a true freshman in 2021, Tuaki saw action in 3 games and was credited with 2 tackles while maintaining his redshirt status. Tuiaki joined the Aggies in time for spring ball of 2021 following his return from serving an LDS Church mission. As a senior at East High (UT) in 2017, he logged 24 tackles and 1.0 sacks, while also starting on the offensive line. As a junior in 2016, he was a starter on a very talented offensive line and was credited with 2 tackles and 1.0 sacks defensively. After adding some weight, Tuiaki looks like he will fit nicely as a defensive tackle. He did play on both sides of the ball in high school at a high level and that level of experience will help him diagnose opposing plays. He’s extremely aggressive and doesn’t give up on plays. He is determined to do something on each snap that will benefit the team. He is good with his hands and he is also physically strong.
Competing to make a move up the depth chart is redshirt freshman Bo Maile. As a true freshman in 2021, he spent the season as a redshirt. As a senior at Bingham High (UT) in 2020, he racked up 40 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks, and 2 QB hurries. During an injury-shortened season as a junior in 2019, he logged 9 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, and 2.0 sacks. Maile is physical at the line of scrimmage and gets off his blocks quickly. He attacks blockers, running backs, and quarterbacks alike, using his strength to stop the opposition in their tracks. He pounces on ball carriers and wraps them up to complete a big play. He should be able to develop into a productive pass-rusher during his time in college.
Adding depth to the position is preferred walk-on junior Tui Aiono. Aiono joins the Aggies after beginning his career at Snow Junior College. He has two years of eligibility remaining. As a covid-sophomore at Snow JC (UT) in 2021, he logged 7 tackles and 2.0 tackles-for-loss. As a sophomore in 2020, he was credited with 8 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, and 1 pass breakup. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, he tallied 14 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, and 1 pass breakup. As a true freshman in 2018, he spent the season redshirting at Snow Junior College. Aiono is a space-eating defensive tackle. He is very strong at the line of scrimmage and rarely finds himself being pushed backward. He is deceptively quick for a player his size and he uses that to his advantage and frequently finds himself in the backfield of opposing offenses.
PROJECTED 2022 PRESEASON DEPTH CHART
1-TECHNIQUE DEFENSIVE TACKLE
92 Hale Motu’apuaka (6-1, 280, Sr., 3L, 3*)
94 Tavian Coleman (6-1, 280, So., JC, NR)
99 Aurion Peoples (6-2, 305, RsJr., RS, 3*)
56 Johnson Hansen (6-3, 295, RsFr., RS, 3*)
95 Adam Tomczyk (6-3, 230, Fr., HS, 3*)
3-TECHNIQUE DEFENSIVE TACKLE
90 Phill Paea (6-4, 305, GR-Sr., 1L, 3*)
96 Poukesi Vakauta (6-0, 290, Jr., 1L, 3*)
48 Seni Tuiaki (6-1, 270, RsFr., RS, 3*)
44 Bo Maile (6-2, 275, RsFr., RS, 3*)
00 Tui Aiono (6-0, 320, Jr., JC, NR)
Coming up on Wednesday: Cornerback