Logan • There is really no choice for Al Lapuaho this season.
For what will likely be a paper-thin defensive line at Utah State, the Granger High grad has to be a leader. He has to be productive in his senior season and he has to lead vocally and by example. Lapuaho knows this. His line coach, Frank Maile, knows it. Gary Andersen knows it.
"It's certainly one of the things we are going to ask of him first and foremost," Andersen said. "Al has a ton of potential, and now it's time for him to start living up to that potential. Coming out of junior college, he's now been here a full year. He's into the system now, and he's experienced the cycle. He knows what to expect."
It says something about Lapuaho that he's still being thought of in such high terms. His spring football season, for lack of a better term, was rough. Very rough.
There were two ejections from practice for throwing punches at teammates. There was a 10-page paper the coaching staff made him write, detailing his plan to become a better player and person. There was a 10-minute presentation from Lapuaho to the rest of the Aggies on the very subject.
His production this spring was down, for him. Especially from last year when he made his debut as a quick and powerful defensive tackle in Andersen's new 3-4 defensive scheme.
"I wasn't in the best of shape," Lapuaho said. "And I think it got to me. I couldn't control my temper, but that's what I have to put behind me. I have to be better, and I have to play well this year. I'm one of the only players on the defensive line with any experience."
At times, the pressure was almost too much for Lapuaho to bear. Andersen, on more than one occasion, called out the entire line as soft and unwilling to work during the spring. There were times when Andersen was genuinely angry about the line play. At other times, however, it was an acknowledged motivational tool by Andersen, because he knows that much of the 2012-2013 defense will hinge on how well the front plays.
Lapuaho is also switching positions. This year, in an attempt to generate a better pass-rush, Lapuaho will move outside to take advantage of his power and quickness off the line. It will also be a little harder for him because his best friend Bojay Filimoeatu, also a Granger alum, is now an outside linebacker, and therefore the two won't be working as close as they did a year ago.
What does it all mean for Lapuaho?
It means that he has to improve upon last season, when he registered 31 tackles and a sack, along with a forced fumble. It means, for the first time in his football life, that he will be looked upon to shape the character of an entire defense.
"I never looked at myself as a major college football player when I was at Granger," Lapuaho said. "I only had two offers coming out of high school. But this has been a learning experience all the way through. I know what's expected of me, and I know that I have to step up and produce."
6-foot-3, 295 pounds
Started all 13 games last season
Had 31 tackles
Played at Granger High
Was offered by Snow College and Southern Utah University out of high school
Originally committed to Washington State out of Snow, before de-committing and signing with USU