12 Players to Watch This Season: Andrew Motuapuaka


This is the second player we will preview in our look at the 12 impact players to watch this season.  Our second player we will be previewing contributed quite a bit last year on the Hokies defense.  However, this season he will be depended on to contribute even more, and on a bigger scale.  The second player on our list is linebacker, Andrew Motuapuaka.

Andrew Motuapuaka is one of the most recognizable Hokies on the team.  Motuapuaka has some very distinctive hair, the type of hair that has made the likes of Troy Polamalu famous.  However, it is not his hair that Motuapuaka hopes will make the Hokie Nation cheer for him.

Last season, the then red-shirt freshman was forced into duty by injury.  At the beginning of the year Motuapuaka was a special-teams player, trying to make a name for himself.  Motuapuaka was an excellent special-teams player even getting a forced fumble during the Western Michigan game, which turned into a scoop and score for the youngster.

However, a major injury to senior Chase Williams thrust Andrew Motuapuaka into the starting mike linebacker role.  This role is similar to the quarterback on the offense, as he is responsible for calling the defensive alignments, and calling out gap assignments.  Motuapuaka essentially a freshman was forced to step in and assume some serious responsibility.  Motuapuaka was up to the challenge, as he finished the year with 54 tackles including 4 sacks.  Against Boston College he led all Hokies with 14 tackles.

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This year Motuapuaka is going to be depended on to be a leader for a very thin linebacking corp.  This year Andrew Motuapuaka is the starting mike linebacker for Bud Foster’s defense.  His playing time last year will prove to be invaluable, as there is no substitute for experience on the field of play.  I look for Motuapuaka to have similar game production as he did in games he started last year.  Double digit tackle numbers for games, as well as a sack sprinkled in would not surprise me at all.  He has the athletic ability to run down the quickest quarterbacks, as well as running backs.  Ohio State will be a true test for Motuapuaka, as the quickness in the backfield will see just how disciplined the young linebacker has become over the spring and fall practice.

The linebackers are the weakest part of a very tough defense, and Motuapuaka will be depended on to play well if the unit is going to have success.  He will be success, as long as he doesn’t let his excitement to get to the ball over take the lessons he learned in practice.  His youth will be a test, but I believe he will be special player and a definite player to watch.