Top 5 BYU football freshmen

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Tuni Kanuch

Tuni Kanuch is one of many BYU football freshman to watch this season. (Photo courtesy YouTube)

Got your countdown going until BYU football kickoff? Join the club.

It’s almost a month away, and, as always, there are new recruits, new questions and ever-persisting concerns and goals for the Cougar coaching staff.

There are many names that BYU fans are more than familiar with — Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams and Ross Apo. But what about the new guys? What about the guys who will be living their dream for the first time this year as they step out onto LaVell Edwards Stadium? What about the freshman?

Fall camp is just around the corner and spring and summer camps have really helped the coaches feel out which freshman will contribute the most 2014 season. And it’s about time we do too.

Here is our list of freshmen players you may be hearing a lot about this season.

Not every player on this list is a true freshman — a few redshirted last year. But according to the roster, coaches and the fans, they are freshman.

You may also notice Sione Takitaki is off this list. Takitaki was an invaluable recruit who would’ve started at linebacker this year. But he has been dismissed from the team until further notice. Reasons for dismissal are unknown.

This list is also wholly opinion, based on facts and statistics and is not written with the intent to ignore great talent elsewhere on the field. If you, the reader, feel there is another freshman deserving of recognition, please let us know in the comment section below. This list is also in no particular order based on skill or talent.

1. Tuni Kanuch

Kanuch redshirted last year for the Cougars and will be taking his first game day snap against UCONN Aug. 29. He’s part of the persistent effort to strengthen the often problematic offensive line, coming from Bingham High School in South Jordan where he was named a first-team All-American. He would’ve played for the Cougars last year, but he was out due to a pectoral tear. But this year, Kanuch plans, as he told the Daily Herald, to bring a defensive mindset to the offensive line. This shouldn’t be hard at 6-foot-2, 325 pounds. Kanuch’s spring camp performance stunned the coaching staff, earning him a top spot on the depth chart, and has kept it through summer camp.

2. Kesni Tausinga

Tausinga also attended Bingham High School where he played at defensive tackle. Tausinga went on a mission right after graduating in 2011, but not before winning the state championship (twice) and winning the state championship in wrestling (also twice). Tausinga will be bringing this champion attitude to the defensive line for the Cougars, most likely at the nose tackle position, playing alongside an old friend and teammate, junior, Manoa Pikula. But since he just got back from his mission in Fiji, he’s got a lot to prove to keep his name on the depth chart before kickoff.

3. Ului Lapuaho

Lapuaho played at Hunter High School in West Valley before he gray-shirted in 2011, which basically means he signed on to the Cougs but paid his way. He then went on his mission to Sydney, Australia, and just returned this year. So technically, he’s a true freshman. Lapuaho stands at 6’6″ and 323 pounds and is ready to use his size and strength to continue to strengthen the offensive line. According to the summer depth chart, he’s projected to be at the right tackle position. Coach Bronco Mendenhall is pretty excited for Lapuaho emerge at the position and thinks he could make one of the biggest impacts on the team.

4. Toloa’i Ho Ching

Ho Ching committed to the Cougars back in 2010, but he served a mission to Orlando and then redshirted in 2013, leading to this as his first year to play for BYU. Ho Ching was lauded by Bleacher Report back in 2010 as “a tough cookie.” He played through a shattered knee cap the entire season at Alta High School in Sandy. His dynamic spirit in high school garnered him some big-name accreditation. He was rated the No. 23 inside linebacker in the nation by Rivals.com, the No. 5 prospect in Utah by Scout.com and the No. 8 prospect by Rivals.com. Ho Ching, linebacker, isn’t starting on the depth chart yet, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make some game-changing plays while playing through the toughest of conditions.

5. Peter Welsh

If you haven’t noticed the trend already, the freshman class’s strength is on the line. This trend continues with Welsh, a linebacker from Bakersfield, Calif. Welsh redshirted in 2010, went on a mission to Argentina, and is now back to contribute to the Cougars. In high school, Welsh was a two-time All-County and two-time All-League. Welsh has a lot to prove before he can step on the field; he’ll have some big shoes to fill with Kyle Van Noy and Spencer Hadley’s recent graduation. But with a high school record of 52 solo records, there’s no reason Welsh shouldn’t receive plenty of playing time and have the opportunity to make big stops.

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Kurt Hanson is covering BYU football and recreation across Utah Valley. He has been a sports editor at BYU's student-run paper, The Universe, and also interned at Men's Journal Magazine in New York and as a sports reporter at KKTV in Colorado Springs. He's a senior at BYU, graduating in April. Follow him on Twitter @kthehanson.

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