At the end of March, BYU will be hosting their Pro Day, and Sione Takitaki will be the focus of many NFL Scouts. Replacing an NFL linebacker is a tall task, but is something BYU has grown accustomed to in recent years. Losing an NFL caliber player can leave a large hole in a position group and hurt overall production. However, I anticipate the BYU linebackers take a step forward next year. Due to a season-ending injury in 2018, Zayne Anderson will return to BYU for a fifth season. BYU fans will look for him to build upon his impressive start to last season and he will be counted upon to be a key contributor for Ilaisa Tuiaki’s defense. Along with Zayne, BYU returns Isaiah Kaufusi who grew into a big-time playmaker for the BYU linebackers as the season progressed last year. Isaiah had a 14 tackle performance in Gillette Stadium and led the linebackers with 2 interceptions last year. Along with the two returning starters, 4-star recruit Chaz Ah You returns from his mission and has stood out in the first week of spring practices. Chaz is a versatile athlete with the ability to play all over the defense. I anticipate those are our three starting linebackers, but what can make this linebacker group special is depth. Behind those 3 starters keep your eye on guys like Max Tooley, Keenan Pili, and Jackson Kaufusi. Tooley showcased his passion in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl; hopefully, next year that passion will be displayed with tackles for loss instead of roughing the punter. As a recruit, Keenan Pili was a Semper Fi All-American in high school and was rated the No. 1 outside linebacker in the state of Utah. Pili returned from his mission to Orlando, Florida at the beginning of January, and has looked better than expected this soon off a “mission trip”. The third linebacker to keep your eye on is Jackson Kaufusi, the younger brother of Isaiah Kaufusi. Jackson showed potential in 4 games last year and it has been said he could become a better player than his older brother. It was a shock to many when Jackson committed to BYU after narrowing his top 3 schools down to Utah, Washington State, and Cal. If all 3 can develop and add depth, expect big things from BYU’s linebackers in 2019. Over the last decade or more BYU has become LBU and it appears that tradition will continue with the current core of linebackers.
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