Straight From The Bush: LSU transfer DE Breiden Fehoko healthy, poised to lead Tigers D-line
Defensive end Breiden Fehoko has had quite a journey on his way to Baton Rouge, but he's healthy and developing into a force for the Tigers.
Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country
BATON ROUGE, La. — Think of LSU defensive end Breiden Fehoko like the Tin Man: All he needed was a little oil to shake off the rust.
Fehoko was one of the most coveted defensive line prospects in America in 2015. At the time of his recruitment, he graded out as the highest-rated defensive tackle Hawaii had ever produced in the 247Sports composite, and he was the No. 8 DT in high school.
Naturally, Fehoko thought highly of himself.
“As a high school recruit, I think every recruit thinks they’re the best thing since white on rice,” Fehoko joked. “It’s funny, I say that because I was one of those guys. I thought that I could just go into college as a true freshman and play football. But football really is, once you get to the higher levels, it becomes a job more than anything. And if you want to get better at doing a job, you’ve got to practice every day.”
Fehoko enrolled in college and did exactly what he expected he would do. He started all 25 games in his freshman and sophomore seasons at Texas Tech, recording 7 1/2 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. But the Hawaiian wasn’t getting everything he wanted from Texas Tech. He wanted to go somewhere he felt he could better develop, so he declared his intention to transfer and chose LSU as the next stop in his college journey.
Per NCAA rules, Fehoko sat out LSU’s 2017 season, taking a redshirt and playing on the scout team while he waited for his chance to get on the field. And in sitting and waiting, Fehoko started to feel healthy for the first time.
“I played a lot of snaps my first two years in college. Not really injuries, but you get all these kinks along the way,” Fehoko said. “It’s like getting a car’s oil changed every 5,000 miles. You’re going to need to rest it every once in awhile and get a new alignment. Just being able to take last spring off and really being able to redshirt last year and play on the scout team really saved my body a lot.”
Fully rested and properly rejuvenated, Fehoko will make the jump from scout team menace to starting defensive end for LSU in 2018. It is a role Fehoko is willing to accept.
LSU’s new old young guy
During his redshirt season, Fehoko learned a lot from watching departing seniors Christian LaCouture, Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron handle their responsibilities. As football players and as leaders. How to prepare. How to practice. How to play. Pretty much every aspect of being a football player.
Now Fehoko finds himself in a bizarre position. He’s never played a down at LSU, but he’s the oldest, most experienced player in the defensive line room. Fehoko has to fill the leadership vacuum left behind by the trio of seniors, but also has to learn how to play in the SEC.
Enter Rashard Lawrence and Ed Alexander.
Fehoko’s battery mates on LSU’s first-team defensive line, Lawrence returns in 2018 for his second season as a starter and Alexander is poised to take over for Gilmore as the starting nose tackle. And because life has a funny way of bringing people together, these three big men have known each other since long before any of them enrolled at LSU.
Alexander and Fehoko met in Tuscaloosa, Ala., of all places. Fehoko, then a high school sophomore, and Alexander, a high school freshman, roomed together at an Alabama showcase camp and clicked as friends. A few years later, all three attended the same Under Armour All-America game, where Alexander introduced Fehoko and Lawrence.
Nearly a half decade later, Fehoko and Lawrence are the closest of friends. On Sundays after games last season, Lawrence and Fehoko would wake up and head to Louie’s Cafe right off LSU’s campus and feast on chocolate chip pancakes and the Seafood Louie. And they’d talk football.
“I’m the older guy. Usually the older guy helps the younger guy,” Fehoko said. “But whenever I get a chance I ask Rashard for help. I say, ‘Hey Rashard, with this block specifically, how are you putting your hands?’ And Rashard will ask me, ‘Hey, what are you looking at here?’ So we’re pretty much helping out each other, and being there for each other is the biggest thing right now.”
Lawrence and Fehoko extend that kinship to the rest of the team, offering guidance whenever applicable. They’re taking the lessons taught to them by former LSU defensive line coach Pete Jenkins and his replacement Dennis Johnson and transmitting them throughout the roster.
Combine that philosophy with the talent in the unit and Fehoko said he believes LSU’s defensive line can be as good as it wants to be.
“I think the ceiling is as high as we put it,” Fehoko said. “The more we bond and the more we work together on that field with each other, I think we kind of get a feel for each other’s strengths and each other’s weaknesses…
“I think with Coach [Dave] Aranda expanding the playbook this year, I mean it’s Day 2 of spring [Wednesday] and we already have half of what we did last season already in the books. So with that being said, you have all these young guys who know what to expect and know what to do. It makes it that much more versatile and that much [more] lethal as a defense.”