Former Cal star Tyson Alualu is going back to the NFL team that drafted him, and his position coach in 2021 will be the same person who was his position coach at Cal.
Alualu had the best season of his 11-year NFL career in 2020 while playing nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he became a free agent this offseason and has signed a two-year, $6 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaquars, according to the NFL Network.
There will be a level of comfort for Alualu in Jacksonville. Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen was Alualu's position coach for the first three years of Alualu's career in Jacksonville, and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi was Alualu's defensive line coach for Alualu's final two years at Cal.
Lupoi was a defensive lineman at Cal from 2000 through 2005, and his first coaching job was as defensive line coach at Cal from 2008 through 2011. Alualu's final two seasons at Cal were 2008 and 2009 and it was during those two seasons that Alualu became a star, recording 22.5 tackles for loss in those two seasons combined.
Lupoi has since worked at Washington, Alabama, Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons before joining the Jaguars staff last month.
The Jaguars drafted Alualu with the 10th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, and he played his first seven seasons with them. He was a starter in six of those season, but he was always a defensive end. In signed with the Steelers in 2017, and two years ago he was switched inside to the nose tackle position, mainly becuse the Steelers needed someone at that position.
That position change proved to be a boon for Alualu, who thrived a his new position at what is usually an advanced age for defensive linemen.
He had by far the best season of his career in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics, and the site ranked his steep improvement (80.1 rating) the biggest surprise in the NFL among defensive linemen.
Alualu then exceed that performance in 2020 at the age of 33, with a PFF grade of 90.2, the third best of all interior linemen, behind only Aaron Donald and Cameron Heyward.
Alualu's versatility should work well in Jacksonville, which is transitioning to a more multiple defense.
Alualu played 44% of Pittsburgh's defensive snaps last season, and he was most effective as a run defender thanks to his ability to defeat one-on-one blocks.
Cover photo of Tyson Alualu with Jaguars is by Gary Lloyd McCullough/For The Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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