August 15, 2007

Andersen breaks it down

Much has been made of the losses sustained by the Ute defense heading into the 2007 season. Nowhere were the Utes hit harder than on the defensive line, where both starting tackles moved on to graduation and the NFL. Add that to the fact that the best defensive back ever to play for the Ute football program graduated, and you have a recipe for disaster - or opportunity. Either way, defensive coordinator Gary Andersen will have his work cut out for him this season as he molds a young group of guys into what he envisions as defensive domination.

UteZone.com: How is the 2-deep shaping up so far this camp?

Gary Andersen: It's wide open right now. We got a lot of battles going on right now. If there's one starter right now, I'd say it's Martail (Burnett), whose had a fantastic camp - he's done a very nice job. He's solidified himself in that spot. At the other defensive end you've got Alex Puccinelli who has a ton of experience in this league. You've got yourself Paul Kruger, Koa Misi and those kids are gonna continually fight in that situation. Greg Newman is still the starter at the strongside end as of today and he's doing a fantastic job. That's very heated and it's not by any means settled, and will not be for some time.

On the inside you got the same situation and if I was to solidify the two starting guys it would be Kenape (Eliapo) and Gabe Long. After that you've got those other kids that are battling extremely hard. You've got Lei Talamaivao, a talented young freshman but he's got a lot to learn with technique at the pad level. Neli Aasa's in there and doing a nice job. But the guy that's really coming on right now is Aaron Tonga. Aaron Tonga has done a really nice job and I'm happy with the camp he's had so far, but how he sustains is gonna be crucial.

UteZone.com: So Alex Puccinelli is getting in on the competition for the strongside DE right now?

Gary Andersen: Well I'm playing a lot of left and right right now. So if Alex is in the game and we start to do a game planning scenario we'll probably put him back at the OE. But what we've done is kind of fine-tuned our ability to be able to play left and right when you're teaching as many young players as we're teaching in the defense they still need to know them both. So we go left and right initially to just get everybody to understand their assignment.

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