Cal Poly

Battle of nation’s top tacklers in Cal Poly-Southern Utah football game

Cal Poly senior linebacker Nick Dzubnar has been among the nation’s elite in tackles since racking up a career-high 19 at South Dakota State in the second game of the season.

This week, Dzubnar checks in at No. 1 in the FCS with 13.5 tackles per game.

Who’s No. 2? Southern Utah’s sophomore linebacker Chinedu Ahanonu.

However, heading into today’s game between the Big Sky Conference rivals, Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said Ahanonu reminds him more of another Cal Poly linebacker.

“He’s a physical, downhill player,” Walsh said. “He’s going to get downhill, and he’s going to be physical when he gets there. He’s probably built a lot like Cameron Ontko. He’s 5-11, 240 pounds, and he’s got quick twitch. He may not be the fastest guy, but he’s quick, and his quickness and toughness is something we’re going to have to deal with in the run game.”

Ahanonu’s toughness was initially forged as a high school defensive lineman at West Jordan (Utah) High.

Southern Utah brought him in as a linebacker and intended to redshirt Ahanonu before he was pressed into action in the seventh game of last season as an injury replacement as a true freshman.

In his debut, he racked up nine tackles and had 13 more the following week.

“He’s been able to excel,” Thunderbirds head coach Ed Lamb said, “because of his athletic gifts and the fact that he plays so hard and with his low center of gravity.”