Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma DL Coach Says Jonah La’ulu is ‘One to Watch’ After Position Change

Last season, Oklahoma struggled to get to the quarterback and it showed, as the Sooners’ defense surrendered 461 yards per game, ranking ninth in the Big 12 and 122nd nationally.

It was the worst total defense ranking that Brent Venables had ever been responsible for, and a repeat of that kind of performance just can’t happen.

The good news is, there are lots of changes coming to the roster in Norman, and a star-studded recruiting class in 2023 should help OU fix plenty of issues. However, there are some players that were on the team in 2022 that might make a difference on the defensive side of the ball this season, and one of those players is DL Jonah La’ulu.


Last season, La’ulu totaled 20 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and an interception after appearing in all 13 games for the Sooners. After an influx of talent at the defensive end position, La’ulu moved inside and will now serve as one of OU’s defensive tackles this season. From the sounds of it, it seems that the move might benefit the 277-pound athlete, who is looking to improve on his numbers in a big way this season.

Oklahoma defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Todd Bates likes what he has seen out of La’ulu after the position change, and even went as far as to say that he is “one to watch” in 2023.

“Jonah has really moved inside and made an impact,” Bates said. “He is just a handful to deal with, blocking him. He’s so athletic and he’s just learning more and more every day. So, you guys, that’s the one to watch. I think he has the ability to do something special for us this year.”


This isn’t something totally new to La’ulu though, as the former Hawaii Rainbow Warrior played inside the tackles at his last school too. It might have taken a year longer than he’d hoped, but La’ulu’s return to Oklahoma for a second year might prove to be an excellent business decision.

“I knew I was going to come back,” Laulu told 247Sports. “I wanted to have a really good season. I just didn’t feel as if last season was the best I could’ve been. We kind of talked about it last season when we were in fall camp. (OU defensive ends coach Miguel) Chavis and (interior defensive line coach Todd) Bates kind of talked me up. They said when I’m inside or doing inside movements, I look a little bit more comfortable than when I’m on the edge.

“Back in Hawaii, I would play interior,” Laulu said. “So I would rush from like a three or a zero. I guess I had a natural knack for it. Being inside, I guess I’m naturally pretty fit for it. I just need to work on the little things and my technique and everything.”


To be as effective as possible, La’ulu will need to put on some more weight, but he says that there is a plan in place.

“When we came back from winter break, I came in at like 262 or 263,” Laulu told 247Sports. “So ever since then, I’ve been put on a weight gain plan with (OU strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt.) He’s been a great help to me, gaining weight and making sure it’s the right weight… Since January, thanks to Schmidty and our nutritional staff, I’ve been able to gain like 15 or 16 pounds. I’m trying to keep gaining this offseason. By the season time, hopefully I’ll be 290 or 290-plus.”

Oklahoma’s Annual Spring Game is set for Saturday, April 22 at 2:30 p.m. and will be Sooner Nation’s first look at La’ulu and the rest of a revamped Sooner defense.

To Top