Breiden Fehoko moved from Hawaii to Lubbock and then on to Baton Rouge in pursuit of his football dreams, so don’t expect him to be phased from simply sliding inside from defensive end to nose guard.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron announced the move earlier this week in order to shore up the position as former projected starter Ed Alexander works his way back from nagging knee injuries. Alexander presently sits third on the depth chart behind Fehoko and redshirt freshman Tyler Shelvin.
Fehoko only found out about a week before the rest of the general public, but he didn’t take it as a seismic change as LSU began fall camp.
“I feel like I’ve embraced the position a little bit,” Fehoko said. “I played it a little bit last year, so I feel like I’ve got good development and good coaching, and I’m just ready to go.”
Last year Fehoko played a little bit of everything along the scout team defensive line while sitting out an NCAA-mandated redshirt season after transferring from Texas Tech. Before that he’d started games at both nose and end during his two seasons as a Red Raider.
Fehoko may be ceding more than 40 pounds to Alexander and Shelvin at the position, but the veteran doesn’t feel the need to gain additional weight in order to shift inside. LSU’s most recent roster listed Fehoko at 298 pounds.
“With the things that we’re doing now, I feel like you’ve got to be able to move around well from side to side,” Fehoko said. “Of course it’s good to have a stout nose who can play a lot of double teams, but I feel like I’ve got enough strength to hold blockers.”
Orgeron praised his conditioning when speaking to reporters following the first practice of camp, something the staff apparently addressed with him back in the spring. Fehoko added that he needed to be in shape as Orgeron has introduced an extra element of tempo while working more closely with the defensive linemen during individual drills.
“He was on today,” Orgeron said Saturday. “He could’ve went another 50 plays today. I was very pleased with the conditioning of Breiden Fehoko.”
What Fehoko may lack in pure width and girth can be made up for in compact strength and athleticism at the point of attack. Alexander is listed at 339 pounds and Orgeron recently commented that Shelvin checked in at a “slim 354 (pounds).”
That difference in style was evident from LSU’s first practice to the man who lines up a few years behind him, Devin White.
“He’s super athletic as a nose tackle,” White said. “When you think of a nose tackle, you think of a big guy just clogging the middle. He makes so many plays in the backfield. I know we didn’t have no pads on yesterday, but he lived in their backfield.
“I love what Breiden brings to this team and I feel comfortable playing behind him, so I can’t say enough good things about him.”
To be clear, just because Fehoko is smaller than LSU’s other nose tackles doesn’t mean he’s undersized for the position. Greg Gilmore started there last season at a shade above 300 pounds, and Orgeron has raved in the past about the physical specimen Fehoko is when it comes to the weight room.
“He dresses like a small guy and plays like a small guy, but he’s just big,” White said. “He can hold his own in the middle. He can hold his own on the left side or the right side. He’s a team player at the end of the day. Coach told him ‘I need you here’ and he didn’t blink. He’s been doing his thing.”