UTAH UTES

Spring Ball Review: A Look At Utah Football’s Defensive Tackles

Jun 26, 2024, 10:00 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utes wrapped up a very productive spring ball that has fans antsy for the start of the 2024 football season.

All of the promise is there, and opportunities feel plentiful for an overall very experienced group heading into a new conference in the Big 12.

Unfortunately, there are a few months left till we can see it all come together for the Utes on the field, but for now we can go back and review the team in anticipation.

Today’s focus on one half of another very productive unit for the Utes- the defensive tackles that help make up a very dominant defensive line.

If you missed it last week, you can also check out the previous article about the Utes’ quarterbacks from position coach Andy Ludwig.

Who Are The Utah Defensive Tackles?

 

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What Utah Defensive Tackles Coach Luther Elliss Had To Say About The Group After Spring Ball

Utah’s defensive tackle room is fairly senior heavy with names that fans are likely very familiar with in Junior Tafuna, Aliki Vimahi, and Tevita [David] Fotu along with junior Simote Pepa. Additionally, the group had a pleasant surprise in then-freshman Keanu Tanuvasa last season.

Position coach Luther Elliss is pretty high on that core group of guys after spring ball and for good reason based on past history.

 

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“I think all of them made huge strides this spring in understanding what we are trying to get out of them as far as taking advantage of their size and who they are as individuals, and as far as getting off the ball and just causing havoc,” Elliss said. “They’ve all done extremely well- I think Keanu has had a really good spring. Junior has, Aliki has really stepped up too- David [Tevita]-he’s been hurt most but the couple of times he’s practices he’s done really well. He’s made an impact. And then of course Pepa has done really well. All of those guys are doing extremely well and I’m excited to have all of them. Any of those guys could start- and not just start here, but anywhere. I think those guys are that talented.”

Jori Benson Is An Intriguing Walk-On In A Stacked Group

We all know Utah’s history of turning walk-on players into stars with wide receiver Devaughn Vele serving as a recent example of a guy who worked hard and transformed into an NFL-caliber player.

While it is easy to get sucked into all the known names in the defensive tackle room, Elliss did have some good things to say about Jori Benson and what he could potentially develop into for the group.

“Jori is a big guy,” Elliss said. “I think he’s 6’4″ and 300 lbs. and he doesn’t really look like it. He could be a very explosive player. He’s learning the game still- he’s mostly a basketball guy. Of course, he’s played the last couple of years, but is just starting to understand and get a good feel. Strong guy, heavy hands- has the heaviest hands on the d-line meaning he has a powerful strike when he uses them. He’s a player who could be really good for us and someone who could possibly contribute if he continues to work hard.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Spring Ball Review: A Look At Utah Football’s Defensive Tackles