Provo • More troubling news dogged BYU’s beleaguered football program Tuesday as reports surfaced that freshman running back Ula Tolutau was cited Oct. 8 in Orem for possession or use of marijuana.
The East High product, who is the only Cougar to have scored more than one touchdown this season, has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, a class B misdemeanor, according to court documents.
BYU football spokesman Brett Pyne said the school is “aware” of Tolutau’s situation and declined further comment. Several coaches and players met with the media for scheduled interviews Tuesday morning shortly after the news broke, but coach Kalani Sitake was not among them and not made available for comment.
“We are just not going to comment on individual situations,” said Pyne, citing program policy.
Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said a deputy stopped a vehicle carrying four adults just after midnight on Oct. 8 for speeding and a tail-light violation. The deputy smelled alcohol and marijuana in the car and issued a field sobriety test to the driver, who was deemed not to be impaired.
Tolutau was a passenger and was found holding a frisbee containing marijuana. He told the deputy that the pot was in a frisbee because he didn’t have a baggie. He was cited at the scene and released. No other citations were given.
“It was a relatively normal interaction,” Cannon said, noting the occupants were cooperative but initially denied the possession of a controlled substance.
News of Tolutau’s citation comes three days after two former BYU football players — linebacker Francis Bernard and safety Marvin Hifo — were charged with alcohol-related offenses in Vineyard. Bernard was arrested on suspicion of DUI and Hifo was cited for having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle that Bernard was driving.
Sitake said Monday that both players had been released from the program a couple weeks ago.
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Tolutau has played in two games since being cited by a Utah County Sheriff’s deputy two days after BYU’s 24-7 loss to Boise State.
His status for Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against San Jose State is unknown; BYU does not publicly announce suspensions.
He originally signed with Wisconsin after producing one of the most prolific offensive careers for a running back in Utah prep history at East. However, after former Utah State coach Gary Andersen left the UW program for Oregon State, Tolutau decided to transfer to BYU when he returned home from an LDS Church mission to Bakersfield, Calif.
Tolutau is arguably BYU’s top offensive weapon, with 72 carries for 303 yards and two touchdowns for the 1-7 Cougars, who are having their worst season since 1968 and are assured of a losing regular season for the first time since 2004.
After Tolutau rushed 21 times for 102 yards and a touchdown against Utah State on Sept. 29, Sitake said the Cougars would establish their “offensive identity” on the big back.