[With the NFL Draft approaching, we wanted to take the time to look back at our departing seniors. Remember the good times and preview what skills they can and will bring to future NFL teams. Today, we look at Tyson Alualu]
TwistNHook: First up, let's discuss the stellar career of Tyson Alualu, whose name always eluded most announcers. Was it Alu alu or All ooalu?
Yellow Fever: I always thought it was the former. But I could be wrong. The pronunciation of his name has always been apocryphal to me.
Avinash: PRONUNCIATION: (AH-loo AH-loo)
Ragnarok: Well, good thing we got that mystery cleared up 3 months after Alualu's last game as a Bear.
HydroTech: The pre-game lineup announcements say the players' names correctly. If you listen to those, you'd know how to pronounce their names.
Yellow Fever: You're assuming that Twist actually pays attention to anything related to the games. He's far busier preening and posing in his pocket mirror.
TwistNHook: Fortunately, this is remembering the seniors and not correctly pronouncing the seniors.
Avinash: I always liked Tyson early--didn't notice him much in 2006 as he only saw a few of the snaps, but in 2007 he really began to stand out for me. He didn't get many sacks or tackles for loss, but he did make plays. Four fumble recoveries that season, including a touchdown against Arizona. That one handed "how the hell did Dixon throw that" INT against Oregon to hold onto the win. Recovering a fumble when USC was driving to put us away. Eight tackles in the Big Game when the rest of the defense looked choppy.
I expected big things from him in the future. And we all got to see it in 2008.
Berkelium97: Tyson first stood out to me against Colorado St in 2007. I don't remember much about that game other than Tyson tearing through that O-line like nobody's business. Like Avi said, he followed it up with some big plays that year like the how-did-he-do-that Oregon interception. From there on, I expected great things from him in following years, and he certainly delivered.
Avinash: What moments stand out for you guys during the age of Tyson?
Well, Avinash, that's a real good question. I think what really stood out was how much he tormented his opponent on the line. The Minnesota game was a perfect example of Alualu extending his will--Weber barely had any time to throw as the poor Gopher O-linemen he faced had no answer for him. Tosh Lupoi himself spoke at the recruiting event about how Alualu ravaged USC's tackle and impacted his potential draft status.
He can be very good. Alualu has something that's rare for the position: size, stoutness and agility. He has wide hips and good feet and fluidly moves left and right. That allows him to stay involved in plays snap to whistle. He's a defensive coordinators best friend. The type of player that improves the play of others around him by influencing blockers, shutting down passing lanes, forcing rushes wide and hustling down field on otherwise lost plays. Alualu also has one of the best pass rusher profiles of a great defensive tackle class.
Alualu can bend around a tackle and attack inside or out against a guard. His lower body bulk makes him seem sturdier than his weight would indicate. He also has good upper body explosive strength to separate and a decent if sometimes clumsy looking array of pass rush moves. Alualu relies on his club on most plays. He doesn't get lost in the blockers body but dictates position and action. Alu plays in the backfield. He also has a nice bull rush and given his overall strength profile, one I think he could improve on. He flashed a tight spin move in the second half that looked promising if unfinished. It surprised Zane Beadles, but Beadles took a step back and resumed blocking. That is, it didn't work, but it's within his repertoire.
Most of my concerns about his conditioning were absolved after the second half. After looking gassed through the Utes hurry up sequence, Tyson played every snap in the second half and provided strong effort throughout. Some of his slower launches might have been confusion; Alualu reading run and control on a play where he should be attacking. He's very aware, but not perfect, and playing end in a rather timid 3-4, was asked to do all without always having a clear idea of what to do. In a 4-3 system, he could refine his jump by simplifying. Sometime the best coaching is simply "attack!"
TwistNHook: One thing that always stood out to me was that Alualu was one of the few players on the team to have children. Two of them. He and Syd'Quan Thompson are the only two players to my knowledge to have children. Or at least the only two to bring them to the FanFest in August. Tyson was always really relaxed at those FanFests, joking around with the fans. His little kids would be in tow, running around their rather hefty father.
Final Word: One game tape watched on Alualu, and it is hard not to fall in love with the his style of play. He may lack size, speed, and explosion but the motor he plays with cannot be topped. He is giving 100% on each play no matter the situation or opponent, something that most defensive lineman cannot say. Another attractive portion of Alualu’s game is his ability to play all spots along the defensive front. His best fit may come as defensive end in a 3-4 scheme where he has the technician type approach and is also very difficult for one blocker to keep at bay. He has the athleticism that a coach can use in creative packages, as seen in his ability to rush the edge as well as drop in to coverage via the zone blitz. The players that produce consistently despite the physical shortcomings are always worth a second look. Alualu is wise beyond his years and will enter the league with more maturity than the normal rookie. His set of intangibles is what coaches look for when searching for those vital role players, and he should get his name called before the end of round 3.
HydroTech: While working for the team, I often worked with the defensive line. On one sunny day, some of the more senior defensive linemen were having a little chit chat between drills. Coach Delgado was firmly shouting out orders to players currently in the drill, and Abu Ma'afala, Nu'u Tafisi, and Mika Kane had just popped out of the drill. They had been talking about who among the defensive linemen, will become either really really good or become an NFL player. Between labored breathes, and with eyes fixed afar in thought, they pondered their nearby comrades in blue practice shirts and shorts.
Somebody mentioned a few people, and those names didn't really garner much response from the others. But then somebody, and I think it was Abu, suggested Tyson Alualu. I think he said something like, "I think Tyson has a good chance." The others immediately agreed with "yeah, Tyson." It was unanimous. The others weren't agreeing to agree, they were agreeing because they really believed Tyson Alualu would be the next great one.
Tyson wasn't there at the moment. I think he was in the drill itself. He didn't hear those words, but I did and stored that memory away for today.
I've written about this before, but for those of you who have ever done something enough to know what it takes to be good at that something, you know you can judge the talent and potential of others at becoming good at that same task. For example, and I'll use myself, I grew up playing a musical instrument. I turned out to be decent enough to make a few honor bands. I knew who was good, and who wasn't. I knew who had potential to be a pro, and who didn't. Those experiences I had helped me judge others, and that's exactly what was going on in the conversation between Tafisi, Ma'fala, and Kane.
Upon hearing those words, I made a distinct effort to keep an eye on Alualu from then on. I'd be stupid not to since his teammates pegged him as the one of the next greatest ones.
This story I am relaying to you occurred in 2006. Tyson Alualu was a freshman in 2006. The elder defensive linemen picked him out as a freshman. They could see the talent and potential that early. It was that obvious.
This memory is one of my favorite memories because I felt like I had been told of the future. Before anyone even thought that Tyson would be our next terror on the defensive line, I already knew he would be thanks to the conversation I had overheard.
As I said earlier, when the elder football players talk about who has talent and who doesn't, you should listen. They know what they're talking about. This theme would reoccur again later in the year, but that's another story and for a different senior.
Berkelium97: Alualu's consistency really stood out against a somewhat inconsistent Cal defense during his years. Lupoi called him "the rock of our defense" and former defensive coordinator Bob Gregory called him "the rock of our defensive line." Even during the fiasco at Tennessee in 2006, Alualu--then a freshman--registered five tackles. Unlike fiery leaders like Zack Follett, Alualu quietly lead by example. Alualu is best remembered by many of his teammates as working nonstop and never registering a complaint. From studying game tape to studying for classes to taking care of his family, Alualu always fulfilled his duties even if he had to sacrifice sleep to do so. Linebacker Solomona Aigamaua said "I don't know where he finds the energy to go all out in all things everyday, but it's inspiring." Though his athletic, academic, and family responsibilities kept him up late, Alualu "gets two or three hours of sleep, and then he's the first one up and waking us up to get back to work," said teammate Solomona Aigamaua. Mika Kane says Alualu can "be the baddest guy on the field, but he'll never say anything." His hard work, patience, and sacrifice have paid off, as Alualu will likely be picked in the early rounds of the NFL Draft, allowing him to take care of his family while playing the sport he loves.
Good luck to Tyson Alualu in the NFL Draft. Thanks for all the great memories and GO BEARS!