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Utah Football Position Preview: Defensive Ends

Quarterback Steven Montez #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes is grabbed from behind by Bradlee Anae #6 of the Utah Utes in the third quarter at Folsom Field on November 17, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The University of Utah has a very talented team that will take the Pac-12 by storm, but their most talented position group on the team is their defensive line, which includes their defensive ends.

Utah got some great news after the 2018 season ended when stud defensive end Bradlee Anae decided to return to the Utes for his senior season and not enter his name into the 2019 NFL Draft.

Anae had a breakout season in 2018 with 51 tackles, 8 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss after 43 tackles and 9 sacks combined during his first two seasons. After the 2018 season, Anae was named first team All-Pac-12.

He very well could be the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

D-Line Has High Preseason Rankings

The Utes have always had a talented defensive line with both ends and tackles getting drafted in the NFL. This year isn’t any different. Phil Steele listed the Utes as the No. 1 defensive line in the entire country ahead of Auburn, Alabama, Michigan State and Clemson.

They will have tough task this season as they will face some teams with a lot of talent on their offensive line.

Washington has a top-10 offensive line, Arizona and Arizona State are rated in the top-20 and USC in the top-25. UCLA is rated as the No. 29 offensive line unit by Steele and BYU is No. 47.

Names To Watch For

On the other side of Anae at right end is junior Maxs Tupai, who had 32 tackles, 3 sacks and 3 tackles-for-loss last season. The Murray High School product will help take offensive line pressure from Anae and will be able to get into the backfield.

The depth is really deep for the Utes as sophomore Mika Tafua will get plenty of game reps behind Tupai, he recorded 23 tackles, 2 sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss last year. Freshman Semisi Lauaki will get some game reps, not as much as the right end position with the talented Anae getting a good chunk of game time. Lauaki signed with Utah in 2016 before serving a church mission. The 6’3, 270 pound defensive lineman re-signed with the Utes in December 2018 and enrolled for spring semester.

Lauaki is from Leuzinger High School in Hawthorne, California and was a first-team all-Pioneer League as a defensive tackle in 2015.

Behind him is red-shirt freshman Blake Kuithe, who is 6’3, 247 pound from Katy, Texas is a young defensive lineman to watch for in fall camp.