BATON ROUGE, La. — As assembled media members in the LSU indoor football facility waited to speak to quarterback Myles Brennan for the first time last week, defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko slipped into the room unnoticed — or at least as unnoticed as a 6-foot-3, 298-pound person could be.
That did not last for long — just as it’s unlikely Fehoko will go unnoticed this season.
However, in this instance, SEC Country was the only outlet to notice him. We sat down with the junior transfer from Texas Tech and spoke about how his game benefits from the switch from being a 4-3 defensive tackle to a 3-4 defensive end, what he learned sitting out for a season and what new wrinkles fans can expect from Dave Aranda’s defense in 2018.
Q: Are you feeling more comfortable as a 3-4 defensive end than you did as a 4-3 defensive tackle?
Fehoko: When I was a lot younger I watched a lot of tackles like Glenn Dorsey, Will Sutton at Arizona State, Leonard Williams at USC. A lot of those hybrid 4-3 defensive tackles that were really active.
As I got older I noticed that it wasn’t the scheme, but how good you were within the scheme with your technique. Playing this 3-4 defense, learning under Coach O, Coach [Dennis] Johnson, Coach Pete [Jenkins], has put myself in a better position to make more plays. And whenever we do switch into an under front and go into a 4-3, I do feel comfortable because I’ve learned a lot. I’ve honed in on a lot of technique. Of course there’s still a ways to go, but I’m pretty comfortable with whatever they want to play.
Q: Were you raw at Texas Tech?
Fehoko: Yes, I was. I felt like I was just eager to get on the field and play. That’s why that redshirt year last year really helped me understand where I was as a football player. I felt like I wasn’t a smart football player until I started learning what offenses like to do — how they like to block certain schemes, how they like to block certain fronts. I’m glad I did redshirt last year and learned from great coaches. And I did learn a lot at Texas Tech as well, but as I got older I learned how important technique was. In high school, you could really go out there and just play football.
Q: Not to degrade football in the state of Hawaii, but I’m sure that’s especially true there…
Note: There are only three classes in Hawaii high school football. Fehoko is a graduate of Farrington High in Honolulu.
Fehoko: You don’t get the competition as if you go to high school in Texas or the states of California or Florida. As for my technique, it has upgraded tremendously and there’s still a lot more room for improvement. I’m so glad I’m on the path I’m on now.
Q: In the media, we’ve talked a lot about how you’ll be a big part of this team. Some readers have responded, ‘But he didn’t put up any stats at Texas Tech.’ So what would your response be to that?
Note: Fehoko had 19 tackles in his sophomore season at Texas Tech.
Fehoko: Of course, I was raw. If you look at the games I was productive in, though, it was out of good technician plays. I was a space eater at times, which is fine. As a defensive lineman your job is to fill your gap. But as I’ve learned more about how to properly play D-line, I’ve put myself in position to make more plays.
I’m not saying I’ll make 80 tackles this year, that’s a broad statement. But now I know how to play primary and secondary gap. I know how to play certain blocks instead of putting my body in there and clogging up space. I’m excited about this year.
Q: How nice is it that the space eaters will be Ed Alexander and Tyler Shelvin instead of you?
Fehoko: That’s one of the positives about a 3-4 defense when you have a true zero [nose tackle] who is 340, and Ed Alexander who is 330. You have those guys who are naturally built to eat up space and take up blocks. Me, Rashard, Neil Farrell, Glen Logan, you’ll be not as much taking up doubles. It puts you in a better position to make plays.
Q: Is what you’ve installed similar to last season, or have you noticed tweaks to what you’re doing in the front 7?
Fehoko: We’re doing a lot more now. Of course I was redshirting last year, but I still learned the base packages and peso packages and the nickel packages. To learn them all put me in a position to succeed this year.
We’re putting in new blitzes. We’re putting in new coverage packages. You want to be ahead of the game so when fall camp rolls around you’re not just working on LSU, you’re preparing for Miami in Week 1.
Q: Last year was somewhat basic. Do you feel this year will be more complex on defense?
Coach Aranda’s going to do a whole lot more. He told us about getting into our playbooks consistently. Players teaching each other the playbook so we can pick it up and run with it. If anything, this is the year to let loose. We’ve got guys like Rashard and Devin White and Greedy and John Battle. Guys who know the defense in and out and are teaching the younger guys. This year, it’s all-out.