Idaho State football announced Lei Talamaivao as its new defensive line coach on Wednesday. The announcement comes two days after Steve Fifita abruptly resigned as ISU’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.
“We’re excited to have him,” ISU head coach Rob Phenicie said. “I wish the best for Steve, and it’s just one of those situations that we were fortunate to not miss a beat with Lei coming on board ... We’re fortunate to have him on board with us and to have someone of his quality available at this time.”
Talamaivao takes over a defensive line that will be a big question mark for the Bengals heading into the season. Idaho State returns experience with Kainoa Fuiava and TJ Togiai, both of whom appeared in all 11 games last year, but the pass rush was an issue for the Bengals in 2018, with just 17 sacks in total.
Talamaivao spent the last two seasons as a graduate assistant and quality control coach at Utah, his alma mater. He was slated to be the defensive line coach at Snow College, a junior college in Ephraim, Utah, this season, until the Bengals came calling.
“I need to say thank you to the Snow College people, because they have a game this week, and here you take their D-line coach several days before their first game,” Phenicie said. “That’s tough on anybody, but the head coach understood it’s a move up for him.”
Last season, Talamaivao helped coach a Utes defensive line group that had two all-Pac-12 first-team selections and one second-team all-conference pick.
Phenicie said he came well-recommended by current Idaho State assistants Kam Yancy and David Fiefia, as well as by Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and Utah State head coach Gary Andersen.
Talamaivao lettered and played defensive line at the University of Utah from 2007-2011. Injuries slowed his college career, but he was a starter until he got injured in the second game of the 2008 season. That year, Utah won the Sugar Bowl by defeating Alabama and finishing off a perfect season at 13-0.
Idaho State’s first game is Sept. 5 against Division II Western Colorado at Holt Arena.