PROVO — Ula Tolutau is a 6-foot-1, 250-pound running back who could make a big impact this season on a BYU offense that must replace all-time leading rusher Jamaal Williams.
It is common practice in spring and fall camp for reporters, coaches and other observers to create hype over a player or two that they notice in practices and drills. If I were to list those covered by the hype factor this spring, I’d pick the defense, especially the linebacking corps.
But individually, if I were to name one player, a newcomer that has turned a lot of heads, it is Tolutau. Some say he is packing south of 260 pounds. Some say he is working to get down to about 245. But as he exisits, he is a load. And he is impressive. And he might be worthy of the hype.
At the St. George practice, I talked to a source who did not want to be quoted by name. He compared Tolutau to Lakei Heimuli, a solid, strong packhorse in the middle of LaVell Edwards’ successful programs. “He runs like Lakei only he’s faster. He has great balance like Heimuli but he has quicker feet going through the line and he has better hands and feel for the game. He is an impressive football player who is driven to excel.
Right now, Tolutau is taking reps with the second and third units as he learns what Ty Detmer expects of his backs in terms of the plays, schemes, pro protection and roles as receivers. But when Tolutau is in action, he does stand out. He is so physical, he stands out. When he’s running down the field, he looks intimidating to the defense.
In other words, we can argue whether his hype is legit or overblown until he is seen in action come late August. But what is not in doubt is that he has stood out and is hype worthy.
I thought an interview with his East High School football coach Brandon Matich on ESPN 960 radio this week was telling. It explained Tolutau’s background and Matich offered observations of someone who knows Tolutau best.