Breiden Fehoko recalls his first and only trip to Louisiana.
He was 11.
“Being a little kid on Bourbon Street,” Fehoko laughs, “it was a really big wakeup call: ‘Welcome to the South.’”
He’s coming back.
Fehoko, a Texas Tech transfer originally from Hawaii, announced his commitment to LSU on Monday, picking the Tigers over Auburn, Georgia and Ole Miss. He’ll sit out 2017 in accordance with NCAA transfer rules and then have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2018. He said he's scheduled to arrive to Baton Rouge in time for the start of the summer semester in early June.
We spoke to Fehoko on Monday night, about seven hours after he posted a message on Twitter committing to coach Ed Orgeron and staff. You can read the story form of our interview here.
Below is a Q&A, where Fehoko discusses plenty of topics, including the reason he is transferring (playing in the SEC appeals to him) and why he chose LSU (playing under Ed Orgeron and D-line coach Pete Jenkins appeals to him even more).
He also touches on a key hour-plus long film room session that transpired during his visit earlier this month, his need to improve consistency and his future position in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 scheme. He talks about his connection to Aranda (he coached at Hawaii and recruited Fehoko’s older brother) and his three goals for a 2017 season in which he’s ineligible to play.
There’s the bit, too, about his brief stint in Louisiana during Hawaii’s Sugar Bowl against Georgia in 2008 and his newfound love for seafood gumbo, crawfish and alligator.
Why pick LSU?
I really enjoyed being around Coach O, Coach (Dave) Aranda and Coach Dennis Johnson. For the most part, I enjoyed learning from them as much as being around them. To be around those guys who have been around football for numerous years and have coached great teams, it was an honor and blessing.
What did they show you specifically to show you how much you can learn from them?
For me, it was a little easier this time around with the process. After playing college football, you kind of find what you’re good at and not good at it. You want to play to your advantages as best you can. I’ve always admired the style of play in the SEC. Going to LSU and taking that official visit … it was tough. Got schools like Auburn, Georgia and Ole Miss (recruiting you). Great schools, great coaches.
What really set (LSU) apart was Coach Orgeron being a D-line coach by trade, really helped out. That’s something I wanted to do — I wanted to be coached by that caliber of a coach and be around those guys. I’m happy and blessed and thankful for this opportunity.
Did you watch film with Orgeron and D-line coach Pete Jenkins while on your visit?
It was crazy. We broke down film from my game film at Texas Tech. Usually you go into visits and people tell you what you’re good at, what you can do to help the program. I really liked how they broke down to me what I needed to work on. Other schools did do that, but I felt LSU did a great job of really being straight up with me and telling me that I’m a good player, but I’m far from being where I needed to be.
I think that’s what I needed to hear. It really humbled me a lot. They showed me, literally broke down, in a day and a half, my game film, what I needed to work on and the development process and the game plan of what’s going to happen this year and how that’s going to make me a better player going into 2018.
Orgeron and Pete did that?
It was Coach O, Coach Pete and Coach Dennis Johnson. We sat in that room for about an hour to two hours and broke down film, watched NFL guys, college guys, previously players from last year — Davon Godchaux, Arden Key. He broke down to me the system of what kinds of drills they do, how it relates to the game and how it will help me. I was just blown away.
I knew I had more work to do on the field, knew I could always be better, but I never really knew how to take those steps, how to be in that position to make myself better. Being around those guys, real knowledgeable experience. I trust them to lead me in the right way. All I got to do is meet them halfway and give them all I got on and off the field.
This is the first in a seven-part series being published this week ahead of LSU's spring gam…
What did they tell you that you were good at and what did they say you need to improve?
What they broke down for me on what I needed to improve on first is definitely being more consistent. There’s plays where I flash and plays that in the NFL you can’t get away with. For them to point out certain things … ‘Hey, your hands are wide here.’ Little things about (positioning) your hands, putting your thumbs up when you strike blockers. I was always taught to put your hands on guys and try to bully that guy in front of you, but there’s a process.
There’s ways to do things, ways to get better. You talk about your footwork, hand placement, how to read O-linemen, how to break down 1-gap technique, 2-gap technique. (At) defensive end (you can be) 5-technique on run plays, 6i, 4i, 3-technique. That’s all the stuff that I was so blessed to sit down with him in a room and talk football and be like, ‘OK Breiden, this is what you need to work on and this is how we’re going to have you work on it and make you the best player you can be by the time you leave LSU.’ I really like that.
You started all your 25 games at Texas Tech. This is kind of unusual. Most guys leave for playing time. Why did you decide to leave despite playing so much there?
To me, I kind of figured out and matured over time. When I was younger, going through the process a big thing was, ‘Man, I want to play.’ High school, you’re a bit-time recruit, sought after. There’s never a time where you had to sit behind someone or take the back seat. I was always into playing early and getting on the field and getting my name out there, but as I got older and realized, ‘Hey, you know what? I don’t have that much time left.’
To me, it’s quality over quantity. That’s the most basic way I can put it, the best way I can put it. I said to myself, ‘If I want to up my game, I got to put more quality into my technique and development.’ The Big 12, their style of play goes so fast. You’re playing 60-70 snaps a game. You kind of lose track a little bit, you get tired. It’s not normal for a D-lineman to take those amount of snaps where compared to the SEC where you’re playing 30-50 snaps a game. More pro-style. You’re playing against great competition and you get the chance to show your technique every day.
That’s one thing that really made me make up my mind. I said, ‘You know what? I want to play in the SEC. I need to play in the SEC.’ That’s what it’s going to take. I’m confident in my decision, and I’m looking forward to getting to work.
What position will you play here?
LSU runs a 3-4. Mainly, they’re looking at me to play defensive end. Crazy thing about that is people think defensive end, you’re an outside player, contain player, a 5-technique (head up on the offensive tackle), but the way (LSU does) it is so versatile. You’re playing a 5, 4-technique (shaded to tackle’s inside shoulder), you can play a 3 (shaded to guard’s outside shoulder), even bump down to a G (over the guard).
That’s one thing I did like: You’re always going to be versatile in a way that you’re going to be good but going to be good at multiple positions. That’s one thing LSU does really well, just being real versatile in the development of my style of play.
This is the second in a seven-part series being published this week ahead of LSU's spring ga…
You have a relationship that dates back with LSU DC Dave Aranda right?
Coach Aranda coached in Hawaii. He actually recruited my older brother BJ to Hawaii and then to Utah State. Coach Aranda has always been a great guy, one of the smartest guys I’ve been around. Just being with him in the meeting room … I can talk football with him for days. H
e’s another guy who broke down film with me, broke down football really. He told me, ‘Look, you’re still raw. There’s a lot of things you can work on to be a better player.’ That’s why I appreciate the guy so much. I’ve seen the track record he’s had with defenses at Wisconsin and Utah State and Hawaii. I trust him. I know that I’ll be in good hands at LSU.
I know both of your older brothers, Sam and BJ, played at Texas Tech so how did they take the news you were transferring?
It was tough personally for me. Coach (Kliff) Kingsbury has been a great coach, great father figure on the field and off the field. It was tough. This was a personal decision on my behalf, had nothing to do with anything or anyone at Texas Tech. Nobody was at fault, nothing went wrong. I wanted to do this for the best of my future.
I couldn’t thank them enough for the opportunity they’ve given me. I wish them well this season, hope to see them go far. They have a great team. Like I said, I got more mature and I notice the style of play and how different it was and the amount of guys that get drafted and how far ahead (LSU/SEC) of technique they are. I wanted to be apart of that.
You’ll have to sit out this season per NCAA rules. How do you handle missing a year of football?
It’s going to be tough, no doubt about that. I played for six, seven consecutive years counting middle school. It’s crazy and may have a little irony, but I’m actually looking forward to this redshirt year.
No. 1, I get to heal my body. I’ve gone through a lot of kinks and injuries and bumps and bruises along the way for college football. You really don’t get the time to heal. I get this year to heal.
No. 2, I’m looking forward to developing in a year under Coach Pete and Coach O. Even though I’ll be redshirting, I’ll be with them every day. Take part in practice and work my butt off. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to as well.
No. 3, get involved to the strength and conditioning program at an SEC school. That’s one more thing I will be taking advantage of. Trying to build my body to how I want it, where I need to be and what’s going to help me play at the best I can.
Those three factors are things that I’m looking at this year.
LSU’s brutal honesty with defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko paid off.
You’re from Hawaii and coming to south Louisiana. I’m sure you learned some about south Louisiana on your visit in early April, but what do you know about the culture here and the food?
I know the people in Louisiana … you hear about Southern hospitality. I went there and the people were just awesome. I enjoyed everybody’s company. I enjoyed the food without a doubt. There’s no doubt that food was a factor in this decision. (laughs) Nah, I’m kidding, but the people there are so awesome.
Got to have some good crawfish. Got to have some gumbo. Alligator. You name it, I had it. Just to be around people that were happy … kind of reminded me of the islands back home. Everybody’s smiling, happy, in a good mood.
Had you ever eaten any of that before you visited here?
I haven’t. Never ate crawfish, never had gumbo, never had alligator. Went to Louisiana and it might have changed the way I look at food. I came back to Lubbock and asked if they knew of any good spots that had gumbo.
Had you ever been to south Louisiana?
I had been to New Orleans before when Hawaii played Georgia in that Sugar Bowl (after the 2007 season). Got a little taste of Louisiana. Been to New Orleans. Being a little kid on Bourbon Street … it was a really big wakeup call: ‘Welcome to the south.’ It was fun. I loved it.