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Power of BYU football’s Caden Haws coming up big on defensive line

By Jared Lloyd - | Oct 12, 2021

BYU defenders attempt to make a tackle during the game against South Florida at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)

BYU freshman Caden Haws was recruited to play for the Cougars as an offensive lineman and he didn’t have any plans to change.

But his reputation as being a beast in the weight room drew attention from the BYU defensive coaches.

“Coach Ilaisa Tuiaki (the defensive coordinator) saw me in the weight room one day and asked if I’d ever thought of playing on defense,” Haws said during Tuesday’s teleconference. “I kind of blew him off a little bit, saying, no, I’m a center.”

But BYU strength and conditioning coach Nu’u Tafisi overheard the discussion and started talking to Haws more about it.

“He played defensive line at Cal and for the Seattle Seahawks for a couple of years, so I gave it some thought,” Haws said.

The freshman from Little Rock, Arkansas, ended up calling his dad for advice, eventually deciding to get the opinion of Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake.

“I want to talk to Kalani and he’s like, ‘oh, dude, I wanted to switch you to defense a year ago,'” Haws said. “He told me to go to defensive meetings that day and I never looked back. That’s kind of how it happened.”

Tuiaki said Haws — who is second cousins to the famous BYU basketball player brothers Tyler and TJ Haws — has excelled in his new role and had an impact on the BYU defensive line.

“He brings a lot to the table as far as strength and stoutness,” Tuiaki said. “He’s a guy that’s done a phenomenal job. He’s a student of the game. He brings a lot to the room to right as far as teaching defensive linemen just the offensive offensive line thoughts and schemes and all that stuff. He’s a great contributor, a guy who is a starter for us and playing really well.”

Haws’s defensive line teammate Earl Tuioti-Mariner said the freshmen may be a big-time competitor on the field but he’s got another side to him as well.

“Caden is awesome,” Tuioti-Mariner said. “He’s super chill. He’s from Arkansas so he’s kind of like a Southern gentleman, super polite and nice.”

Haws, Tuioti-Mariner and the rest of the BYU defensive line are making some plays but still have things to improve on.

One of those areas is being better when teams attempt to go to a power running game where they pull an offensive lineman to open up holes. Both South Florida and Boise State did that extensively when running the football.

“It’s just a little bit of a different read for us,” Haws said. “You might play a little further off the ball so you can see a little bit better. It’s something that we’ve worked on a little bit more. We might just need to watch a little more film and create a little more time to make those reasoned decisions to be able to get play side. If you know someone’s trying to block down on you, you have to be able to pop over.”

Tuiaki said it has been a different approach than what teams like Boise State have shown in the past.

“We had different fronts that probably just wasn’t the best against the plan that they had,” Tuiaki said. “It took us a little bit of time to adjust. We really had to completely abandon the game plan that we’d practiced and go to something just a little bit different. It wasn’t until then that we were able to slow them down a little bit.”

He sees opponents wanting to take the air out of the ball and prevent BYU’s offense from getting opportunities.

“I think with how explosive our offense is, certain teams come in with a game plan to keep the ball away from our offense,” Tuiaki said. “They really just try to grind out with drives with three three yards here and two or three or four yards there. We’ve got to do a better job as a coaching staff just anticipating a little bit more what people are going to try to do to keep our offense off the field.”

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