BYU: So'oto goes on the defensive

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Brigham Young's Vic So'oto is willing to do what it takes to help his team. Last season, that meant contributing as a tight end, which he did as he played in all 13 games and had 12 receptions for 124 yards.

This upcoming season, it means filling a need that is vital in keeping BYU's defense among the best in the country. That's why - in the Cougars' first day of spring football practice yesterday - So'oto played on the defensive side of the ball instead of offense.

"So far, [the switch to linebacker] is going well," So'oto said. "I'm here for my team. I knew there was depth at tight end and this feels best. I'm here for my team."

But, the adjustment to playing linebacker hasn't been easy. It's a position So'oto hasn't played since he was a senior - he was a first-team all-San Diego linebacker that year - at Carlsbad High in 2005.

"The conditioning is the hardest part. On offense, you run some routes, sometimes you get tired," So'oto said. "But on defense, your motor never stops. You have to train your hips again. It's been a while since high school."

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said So'oto's switch has affected his entire demeanor on and off the field.

"Vic has matured and been through a lot of things here at BYU, and this is the first time since he arrived on campus I have seen a kind of bounce in his step and a light in his eyes where he is really looking forward to the season and that's been fun," Mendenhall said.

Former BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl has been giving So'oto tips on playing the position and advice on weight lifting routines and nutrition.

Kehl was at BYU yesterday to watch So'oto's first defensive-based practice from the second-floor balcony.

"He looked pretty good. I was impressed," Kehl said. "I think he will be able to make the transition and I think he will do a good job. He has got all the tangibles and intangibles to do it."

So'oto knows following in Kehl's footsteps won't be easy. As a junior last season, Kehl was ranked third on the team with 70 tackles - including 35 solo tackles. He averaged 5.2 tackles a game against Mountain West Conference opponents and led all Cougar linebackers with three break-up passes.

He was a big part why BYU's defense was ranked 10th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 14.7 points a game.

"I can't replace Bryan Kehl. I've got big shoes to fill," So'oto said. "But, I got big feet."