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?


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by KSL Sports (@kslsports)

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.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Junior Tafuna (@jmtafuna58)

“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

Are you on Threads yet? Let’s connect, give us a follow @kslsports

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

  • Utah Utes Scoreboard

  • Utah Utes Team Leaders

  • Utah Utes Standings

Utah Utes


Michelle Bodkin

Utah, BYU, Utah State Represented In East-West Shrine Bowl 1000

All three major colleges in the state of Utah- Utah football, BYU, and Utah State are represented on the Shrine Bowl top 1000 players list.

7 hours ago


Michelle Bodkin

Spring Ball Review: A Look At Utah Football’s Cornerbacks

Before we dive into camp breakdowns, there are still two position groups we need to take a look at starting with the Utah cornerbacks.

15 hours ago


Michelle Bodkin

Former Utah Utes Athletes Set To Compete At 2024 Paris Olympics

All eyes turn to Paris, France, next week for the 2024 Summer Olympics and there will be a few former Utah athletes taking the big stage.

4 days ago


Brian Preece

Locals In MiLB: Justin Sterner Gets Second Cup Of Coffee With Tampa Bay Rays

The life of a minor league bullpen arm is rarely straightforward, as former BYU Cougar standout pitcher Justin Sterner can attest.

6 days ago


Michelle Bodkin

Kai Roberts, Micah Ashman Recount High School Basketball Rivalry After MLB Draft

Former Utah baseball stars Kai Roberts and Micah Ashman recounted a high school basketball rivalry after being drafted to the MLB.

6 days ago

merit jones...

Brian Preece

Utah Baseball Starting Pitcher Merit Jones Selected By Minnesota Twins

The Boston Red Sox have selected University of Utah starting pitcher Merit Jones with the 608th overall pick in the 2024 MLB draft.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles


KSL Sports

Utah Hockey Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Want to get the latest info on Utah's newest sports franchise? Sign up for the Utah Hockey newsletter!


KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.


KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.


KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.

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