Better Know a Freshman: Sione Teuhema

Wescott Eberts

Keller, TX defensive end Sione Teuhema is one of the less heralded players in the 2014 signing class. But he brings a big upside to Baton Rouge.

One hallmark of the John Chavis defense is the emphasis on featuring playmakers in his front four. It's a stylistic choice, but one that requires the right type of personnel to execute. Conversely, the Alabama defense is one that can thrive without featuring down line men that create havoc in the backfield. Take, for instance, their dominant 2011 defense, which featured the following three players:

Josh Chapman, NT: 23 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.0 sack
Damion Square, DE: 32 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 1.0 sack
Jesse Williams, DE: 24 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 0.5 sack

A combined 79 tackles, 14.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks. Put that up against LSU's two defensive ends:

Barkevious Mingo: 46 tackles, 15.0 TFL and 8.0 sacks
Sam Montgomery: 37 tackles, 13.5 TFL, and 9.0 sacks

That's 83 tackles, 18.5 TFL and 17.0 sacks. Two players along the LSU defensive line were more productive than the three primary contributors in Alabama's front. Sure, there's a talent discrepancy issue here as well, but realistically this is a question of philosophy. The Alabama players weren't asked to be dominant playmakers. No, they were tasked with eating up blockers up front so their athletic linebackers could roam and make plays for them. Perhaps Saban's best strength as a coordinator is playing to the strengths of his personnel. He's not unwilling to turn a playmaker up front loose, see: Dareus, Marcell. This decision certainly didn't hamper the 2011 Alabama defense, a unit that is arguably the best in college football history.

Yet, when we spotlight the best defenses in Chavis' history, almost exclusively they feature dominant playmakers along the line. Just take a peek at the names: Haynesworth, Henderson, Mahelona, Ayers, Williams, Brockers, Logan, Mingo, Montgomery and on and on. It's not that he's incapable of building a great unit without dominant DL play, it's just that history tells us his defense operates best when his boys up front are dominant.

The bottom line is, if your defensive dominance is predicated upon featuring superb playmakers up front, you have to recruit the right personnel. Sione Teuhema, while not a highly decorated recruit, features an upside that matches the type of defensive end play we've come to expect in dominant Chavis defenses.

Background

In April, 2013, LSU extended an official offer to Sione Teuhema, and his younger, larger brother, Maea. It was no secret in recruiting circles that the two brothers would be heading to college together, though separated by a year. Their interest in LSU was strong, to the point that many believed the TIgers were the favorites to land their services. A month later, both pledged to Mack Brown at the University of Texas.

Their recruiting went on lock. They didn't take any official visits during the season, as most recruits do. Not even to Texas. Then Mack Brown resigned. Suddenly, they were forced to re-evaluate. First they paid Charlie Strong a visit in early January. The week after that, they tripped to Stillwater to visit Oklahoma State. January 31st the Teuhema brothers planned a secret visit to LSU. They showed up to Baton Rouge decked out in LSU gear, took in a greatly successful weekend and Sione officially signed his papers just days later in a ceremony before his HS.

Sione was a productive player during his time at Keller HS, claiming Class 5A 2nd Team All-State honors his senior season. He was named to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as well. Try as I might, the only stats I can find are pre-Senior year, but impressive, totaling for his career: 194 tackles, 22 sacks, 5 FF and 2 FR, all as a down lineman. As a senior, he shifted to a standing LB role to accommodate his team's needs. As I'll touch on later, it's not likely the best fit for his skill set, but it does display the high level of athleticism he brings to the table. 247 ranks him as an 88 overall.

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has "can’t miss" talent.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

Tale of the Tape

Height: 6'3"-6'4"
Weight: 215
40-yard Dash: 4.6-4.8

He's an interesting prospect from a size perspective. Teuhema looks every bit of his listed 6'3"-6'4" and while he's light, he's not as lanky as say, Barkevious Mingo or even Danielle Hunter. He looks a lot like the type of 3-4 edge rushers that have become popular in today's game, but obviously for our system he'll be a 4-3 DE.

Here's some clips of Teuhema doing some Combine-styled drills:

He picks his feet up and gets going pretty well and he looks very well put together. He looks a little tight in the hips, which may mean his future is almost certainly with his hand in the dirt, but he does move well once gets going.

Film Study

The question with Teuhema is can he grow into being a full-time defensive end? He's got a frame that he can add bulk to, but it'll be interesting to see how it affects his quickness. Let's take a look at the tape.

Strengths: First step/Quickness, Physicality, Pursuit/Effort, Hand Usage, Length, Intelligence, Athletic Ability

Weaknesses: Size/Strength, Technique, Point of Attack, Tweener?

Junior Year

Teuhema's an interesting case on tape. It's almost a story of two tapes. Let's start with his Junior year film, which can be found here on HUDL.

Note: If you use the arrows on HUDL it will take you from play to play to play, the beginning of each.

First Step/Quickness: One thing I always look for in a rush player is a good first step. It's not really something you can coach out of a player. Teuhema flashes potential here, though it's inconsistent. Check out 1:13 and how he explodes when the ball is snapped. He knifes into the backfield and nearly tackles the RB as he's taking the handoff. Watch the play at 1:47. Though he stands almost straight up, he's so quick with it, he's able to soundly defeat the tackle with a swim move. Now watch the first play on the clip. He actually false steps backward before getting back going downhill. Now, he still makes the play, but this is inconsistency I'm talking about.

Physicality: Watch the play beginning at :25 and how he punishes the would be receiver after the incompletion. Watch the play at :35 and how he punishes the helpless pitch man on the TFL. Watch the collision on the play starting at 3:07. He's bringing a bit of nasty with him.

Pursuit/Effort: :54 seconds as the backside end on a toss play away from him he makes the tackle. 3:14 he makes another nice play on a running play away from him, jumping on with a couple other tacklers. Even in plays which require less "chase" he's persistent and always running to the football. It's easy to see why Chavis coveted him, as that's a main tenet he preaches.

Hand Usage: There's quite a few examples here. :13 seconds is the first. He brings an upfield rush, then uses his hands to shuck off the blocker and work back to the QB. 1:38 isn't the most brilliant pass rush, but it illustrates how he utilizes his hands to not allow the OL to engage him and take him out of the play. 1:47 is all hands and quickness, using his natural first step in combo with a strong swim to propel himself right into the play.

Length: Works in combination with his hands, as his long arms allow him to keep blockers at bay. But he also makes good use of his length to affect the passing lanes. At 3:25 he jumps and extends his long arm to bat down a ball. At 3:50 he does the same.

Intelligence: There's some inconsistency, but when a player pretty consistently can read a play and crash, it always stands out to me. Watch 3:07 and how quickly he dissects and immediately finds the ball carrier. :45 seconds is another good example.

Athletic Ability: 2:05 is impressive alone. But at :25 he drops into coverage. At 2:34 he runs a route and catches a pass.

Size/Strength: Less about the tape and more about acknowledging he'll need to add additional bulk.

Technique: I can't get a feel for him here. At times he flashes a nice array of pass rush moves. Other times, he seems to just be freelancing. His stance is a bit peculiar and he's often in a straight up runner's start raring to go. Look at 2:58 and his stance is a bit sloppy after the shift. From there, he looks like he's trying to attack the outside shoulder of the OT, but he's also running nearly straight upfield and while it winds up working, it's the type of thing that will get him taken out of plays in a hurry at the collegiate level. At 3:14 he's able to use his long arms to get separation, but he kinda hand fights and doesn't really come with any technique.

Point of Attack: My biggest concern is that he doesn't dominate the point of attack, which he can get away with in HS, but will get swallowed up in college. Watch 3:43. Doesn't deliver a blow and the OL gets his hands on him. In college, this probably ends in a pancake. 4:28 it's the same. He's able to fight off this block, but it's the type of play that won't end well for him in college, unless he gets demonstrably stronger, which is entirely feasible.

Tweener: At this point, I'm unsure what he is. Can he pack on 40+ pounds and preserve that outstanding burst and quickness? If additional bulk turns him into more of a plodding, run-stuffing DE, doesn't that negate his strengths? In that case, is he an every down player?

Senior Year

You can watch his Senior highlights here. I won't spend as much time here, but let's give a quick overview. Remember, he shifted to a more classic LB role for his team this year and was still a 2nd Team All-State player in tough 5A Texas ball.

To me, he's a much more hesitant player as a standing LB. He's often standing back and watching, quite obviously thinking too much. Now, we still see a lot of those traits that make him a great player: his quickness, his pursuit, his physicality. A player that looked like a pretty strong 4-3 rush end, now looks like a fairly marginal LB prospect. What we do see that's unique is that he moves around pretty damn well. He can cover a bit and he operates okay in space. I think this is a case of him just not feeling fully confident at playing LB less than lacking the tools to do so. This is important, because it really opens up his options both at LSU and beyond.

And that sweet downhill pass rush? He's still got it, y'all. Check out 3:13 of that Senior tape.

Summary

Teuhema's a guy I have a heavy interest in this fall. While I'm almost certain that Chavis will see him as a 4-3 end, he's not entirely unlike Kendell Beckwith in that he might make a superb rush end and still have LB tools. For me, though, his athletic abilities are best utilized in close quarters. As a DE, his quickness is an extreme advantage. Throw him at LB and he's not poor, but he doesn't stand out quite as much. That said, it could quite possibly be a confidence issue, because there are plays on that Senior tape where he flashes putting it all together.

Putting it all together will be Sione's biggest mission. If he's able to do so, I think he's got a pretty sky-high ceiling. He needs to continue to add good bulk, but there's a lot to work with here. In a lot of ways, Sione's the forgotten man in the 2014 signing class. He's not highly ranked and he's also followed by a 5-star super tackle in his younger brother. This leads many to assume that Sione is the token offer on the path to get Maea. I don't think that's the case. Sione's got a skill set to offer all his own.

The defensive end picture isn't nearly as murky as two years ago. Danielle Hunter will only spend, at most, two more years in Baton Rouge. Rasco is gone after this season. Bower is entering his sophomore year, so he'll have a year spacing between he and Teuhema. The only other players there are Lewis Neal and M.J. Patterson, players who likely won't be regulars. How the battle between he and Deondre Clark shakes out should be interesting to see unfold.

You can read Wescott Eberts' scouting report on Teuhema here.

High End: All-SEC Defensive End.

Low End: Rotational DE and pass-rushing specialist.

Realistic: I'd say the odds are he'll trend more toward the rotational type of player, but there's an upside here that's not completely colored in. To me, he's a player that will get on the field at LSU in some capacity... I'm just not entirely sure how just yet.

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