CHRISTIAN CAPLE

UW transfer Logan Sagapolu ‘grateful’ for new start, position

Jun 13, 2024, 10:15 AM | Updated: 10:15 am

UW Huskies helmet...

A UW Huskies helmet during a 2018 game. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

Incoming UW Huskies transfer Logan Sagapolu grew up playing high school football in Utah, and so far has attended college in Eugene, Ore., and Coral Gables, Fla. Before matriculating at Oregon, Sagapolu served an LDS mission in Hawaii — first on the Big Island, then Oahu — though it was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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His journey continues in Seattle, where Sagapolu will enroll next week as part of Washington’s incoming class 2024 signees. Originally recruited in the 2019 class, Sagapolu still is a junior, eligibility-wise, with two seasons remaining, should he want to stay another year. The 6-foot-2, 340-pound lineman followed coach Mario Cristobal from Oregon to Miami, where he played sparingly the past two seasons, and entered the transfer portal again, he said, so he could play closer to home.

Sagapolu also is playing a new position, switching from O-line to D-line, a move Washington hopes will shore up a position which lost its top three contributors from 2023. It also gives Sagapolu a chance to reinvent himself after playing 206 total snaps in his first four college seasons (all in 2022-23, and mostly in 2022).

Rather than Sagapolu clearing space for tailbacks and protecting the passer, UW coaches instead envision him clogging running lanes and occupying double-teams as a nose guard.

“Just using my strength and my abilities to plug the middle, to be a two-gapper,” Sagapolu said, relaying what defensive line coach Jason Kaufusi told him about his new role. “That’s really a big vision he has: he wants a really strong, stout nose guard to plug up the middle, and that’s his vision for me.”

Kalen DeBoer’s coaching staff tried something similar with Ulumoo Ale, their biggest lineman on either side of the ball the past two seasons. Ale spent his first four college seasons as an offensive guard, but switched to defensive tackle as a fifth-year junior in 2022, and gave the Huskies 430 snaps as a sixth-year senior.

He’s gone, and so are Tuli Letuligasenoa and Faatui Tuitele, the three D-linemen who played the most snaps for UW last year. While Montana State transfer Sebastian Valdez is a sure starter — and returning reserves like Jacob Bandes and Jayvon Parker should contribute, as might JUCO transfer Bryce Butler and redshirt freshman Elinneus Davis — the Huskies lack any D-linemen with Sagapolu’s build.

One big difference between Ale and Sagapolu, of course, is that Ale left an O-line room stocked with talent and experience, while Sagapolu is switching to play D-line for a team that lost its top seven offensive linemen from last season. So far, he said, coaches haven’t mentioned any possibility of him switching back to offense.

Washington isn’t the first program to consider Sagapolu on defense; Nebraska, he said, offered him as a nose guard out of high school. And Sagapolu did play both ways at West Jordan’s (Utah) Copper Hills High School and then Lehi’s Skyridge High School. He signed with Oregon, though, as a three-star recruit on the interior O-line — reputed for his strength and footwork — after also considering BYU and Utah.

Originally, he didn’t expect to enroll at Oregon until the 2021 season, after he finished his mission. But the pandemic sent him home after only a year, and Sagapolu instead joined the Ducks in 2020.

He didn’t appear in a game that year or the next. At Miami, Sagapolu saw 177 snaps in five games as a third-year freshman — including his first start — before playing only 29 snaps in 2023.

“I had a lot of ups and downs, I’ll be honest,” Sagapolu said of his time in Miami. “Overall, I really enjoyed it. I got to meet some amazing people down in Miami. I never would have thought I would be down there, going to college.”

Kaufusi contacted him the day he entered the portal, and Sagapolu said he heard from some smaller schools, too. UW’s D-line coach let Sagapolu know right away that he was looking at him to play defense.

“It threw me off, not gonna lie, because I’ve been playing O-line this long,” Sagapolu said. “It definitely was a surprise, but it was really cool.

“I felt really good about it. Why not? I was very grateful for just the opportunity to even be looked at to play D-line, which I haven’t played since high school.”

In the interim, he’s spent much of his time at home, visiting family while training for his new position. Actually, he’s combined those two pursuits, because his father, Tavita, is the D-line coach at Skyridge (and used to be head coach at Copper Hills).

“I think the main thing is just firing out, and also the footwork,” Sagapolu said. “As an O-lineman, you want to be flat-footed as you play, but as a D-lineman, a lot of times you’re on your toes. Firing out with your hands, reacting and just playing on your toes. Working pass-rush moves, working run-stop fits.”

He also started working on D-line technique with some of his former teammates at Miami, before graduating from the school in May.

“I had pretty good people around me to get adjusted and acclimated to the D-line life — the feel, the footwork, the hands and everything,” Sagapolu said.

Sagapolu says he’s good friends with incoming O-line transfer D’Angalo Titialii; they grew up attending the same camps. He also got to know Ohio State transfer Enokk Vimahi when the two played in the 2019 Polynesian Bowl.

Otherwise, UW will offer a new, unfamiliar experience, though in a more familiar part of the country. He has an uncle who lives in Renton, but Sagapolu said he hadn’t spent any real time in Seattle before his official visit this spring. He likes that his family will be able to travel more easily to his home games.

“My family is happy, I’m happy,” Sagapolu said via telephone last week while in the Seattle area, already moving some of his belongings. “I’m just happy to be here, and blessed to be here.”

This article was originally published at OnMontlake.com, the home for Christian Caple’s full UW Huskies football coverage. Subscribe to On Montlake for full access to in-depth UW coverage.

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