Utah football notes: Oregon defender has SLC roots
Will Tukuafu grew up as an avid Utah fan. He attended high school just down from the university at East High always attended Utah's football camps where he loved learning under coach Kyle Whittingham 's guidance and watched his brother, Pasa , play for the Utes.
All those good feelings toward the Utes will be put aside come Saturday though, when Tukuafu does everything he can to send the Utes home from Oregon with a loss.
The 6-foot-4, 272-pound Tukuafu is Oregon's star defensive end who ranked fifth in the Pac-10 in 2008 in tackles for loss (17.5) and tied for eighth in quarterback sacks (7.5).
He had seven tackles against Purdue to earn his team's Player of the Week honors and envisions another big game for himself against the Utes.
Having grown up as a Utah fan, Tukuafu has followed the Utes in their recent success and said he has made sure his teammates won't underestimate Utah.
"We have a lot of respect for Utah, we know they're a great team, and coach Whittingham has done a great job for them," he said. "They're similar to us. It's going to come down to who wants it more."
Interestingly, as much as Tukuafu has followed the Utes, his plans never were to be a part of the program. He was headed to BYU, but after working a year and going on a two-year LDS Church mission, discovered he was short on the academic requirements. He attended Mesa Community College instead and blossomed into one of the top junior college defensive lineman. He decided Oregon was the best fit for him to "try some new things out."
Now he can't wait to see his old friends and hopefully beat them.
"We're excited to play them down here," he said. "This stadium will get rocking, but I think Utah is used to this kind of thing. They've played in Provo and in the Sugar Bowl, we know Utah is going to come in here and play hard."
No hitters to hits
Throughout fall camp, Joe Dale wore a special shell over his jersey indicating he couldn't be hit after offseason shoulder surgery.
His first real action was the season opener.
The lack of hits though has apparently done nothing to soften up Utah's defensive back.
Dale leads the Utes with 14 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
The senior said he was a little tentative at first since he hadn't any live reps since the Sugar Bowl, but he is confident in his shoulder and in his play now.
"I still deal with some soreness, but it's not a big deal," he said. "I have to trust it's going to hold up."