PROVO — BYU confirmed season-ending injuries to defensive tackles Travis Tuiloma and Meti Taliauli on Tuesday.
Both players sustained knee injuries, dealing a blow to the depth and production of the defensive tackle position as a result.
Particularly stinging is the loss of Tuiloma, who had been upping his reps game-by-game after missing the first three games of the year due to a Lisfranc injury sustained during last season's Las Vegas Bowl. Tuiloma had been a consistent and even stand-out contributor since his freshman year in 2011. After serving an LDS Church mission to Apia, Samoa, the fifth-year senior rose to be widely considered as the team's best interior lineman.
"It's tough to know that he's gone," said BYU linebacker Butch Pau'u. "But we can't get down on that. We just got to keep our heads high."
Taliauli is a sophomore lineman, who was one of the two starting defensive tackles at the beginning of the year.
While Taliauli will likely return to action next season, BYU fans have likely seen the last of Tuiloma. The 6-foot-2, 301 pound fifth-year senior has already used his redshirt and logged five games played this season.
FILLING IN HANDSOMELY: The loss of both Tuiloma and Taliauli puts the onus of those healthy bodies remaining to step up. Among those to be relied on include senior Logan Taele, junior Tomasi Laulile, junior Kesni Tausinga, sophomore Tevita Mo'unga and junior Handsome Tanielu, among others.
As for Tanielu, coaches have steadily increased his reps since he first arrived at BYU as a heralded 4-star prospect out of Snow Junior College.
"Last game I thought was his best game since he's been here," said defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki regarding Tanielu's progress. "So he's getting better, slowly, and he's a good kid. He tries hard...He's figuring it out and he's coming along."
PAU'U PROGRESSING: The good news on the injury front involves middle linebacker Butch Pau'u returning to full strength, or at least close to it. Since sustaining a knee injury during BYU's win over Toledo, the 6-foot, 223-pound sophomore has missed time and hasn't looked quite the same as he was pre-injury.
"He's pretty close to being what he used to be," Tuiaki said.
Pau'u was mandated to practice with a brace this week, although it's something he'd just as soon do without, forgoing use of the brace during Monday's practice.
"The trainer said, 'You're very dumb for doing that,'" Pau'u said. "I could re-injure myself during practice, so I put the knee brace back on and I feel very restricted. But it's for my own protection, so that's good."