The Oregon State’s 47-6 loss to Colorado turned out to be a fateful game for the offensive line.
It was the first game that the offensive line solidified. Gavin Andrews moved from guard to center, Dustin Stanton shifted from tackle to guard and Sean Harlow made his first game appearance back from injury. From that game on, the offensive line turned into one of the team’s strengths.
Despite only playing in eight games in 2016, Lavaka was named to the Pro Football Focus Freshman All-American team and earned Honorable Mention All-Pac-12.
“He came in strong, I didn’t expect him to (not do well,)” said redshirt junior Trent Moore. “Obviously when you come in you've got to learn the stuff, and he actually picked everything up really well. Having that extra size and strength definitely helped him for sure."
“Seeing him kind of progress from fall camp to when he was thrown into the fire against Colorado, it’s really impressive.” said senior Will Hopkins. “There was one time during the week during fall camp he was asking a question on a play that we were running for a while, and we were surprised he didn’t know it. But obviously he figured it out.”
With Harlow, Andrews and Stanton all graduating, there is a changing of the guard on the offensive line. Blake Brandel has flipped from right tackle to left tackle, Lavaka and Lauina flank new center Sumner Houston at the guard positions. With Moore rounding out the first unit at right tackle.
Before he could make a run at a starting spot, he had to change his body. Moore showed up to start his freshman year as a 241-pound tackle, three years later, thanks to double helpings of breakfast and lunch and late night meals, he is now pushing 300 pounds.
“My roommates would always make fun of me,” Moore said. “Every night of the off-season, I’ve been drinking a protein shake with two scoops and making a whole box of mac and cheese, just those extra calories at night.”
Packing on the pounds is something that Hopkins knows all too well. Coming in as a tight end, Hopkins had to add weight once he transitioned to the the offensive line. Initially, putting on the weight was a challenge, but once reaching a certain point, adding the weight is less painful.
“Once I got to 285 (pounds) it was a lot easier.” Hopkins said. “But getting to 285 was really tough.”
With the emergence of Lavaka, Lauina, who played most of his career at guard, has moved outside to tackle. It’s been a natural move for Lauina, who came to Corvallis as a tackle before sliding inside to guard.
“He’s had some experience at it before,” Hopkins said. “It’s adjusting to having space, because at guard you don’t have as much space as you do at tackle, he’s adjusted really well to it. Even from the get go, he’s had one of the better pass sets for guards and tackles.”
Despite the changing of the guard at offensive line, the unit is confident that they can pick up right where last year’s unit left off, mainly because of what last year’s seniors were able to teach them.
“Those (seniors) knew what they were doing,” Moore said. “So everyday practicing with them and learning from them definitely helps. I’m confident from what I’ve learned from them and coach Woods.”