Spring Position Battles- Offensive Line

The Utes return three starters but lose two All Conference offensive linemen...

Offensive Tackles
Candidates: Sam Brenner, Miles Mason, Percy Taumoelau, Kalvin Cusick, Daniel Nielson, Kapua Sai
Favorites: Sam Brenner, Miles Mason, Percy Taumoelau
Dark Horse: Daniel Nielson
Winners: Sam Brenner and Percy Taumoelau

With the loss of two all-conference Tackles, the Utah offense has some massive holes to fill at important positions. Unfortunately for the Utes, they didn't have any true tackles waiting in the wings. When Left Tackle John Cullen missed the season opener in 2011, junior college transfer Miles Mason slid over from Guard to Tackle. When Tony Bergstrom went down with short-term injuries, Percy Taumoelau got some time at tackle. Midway through 2011, Sam Brenner slid over from Guard to Tackle to fill in for a game and played admirably.

This spring, the Utes will look to fill the tackle position by committee. Percy Taumoelau is the only true tackle on the team with any sort of playing experience. Kapua Sai has not yet proven to be a BCS caliber tackle, and Daniel Nielson certainly has the size to play the position, but is still likely a couple of years away from being ready to contribute. Sam Brenner should be the best offensive lineman on the roster next season, and with better depth on the inside during spring, Brenner is capable of moving to the outside, and for now, that is the best option available.

Offensive Guards
Candidates: Sam Brenner, Miles Mason, Percy Taumoelau, Kalvin Cusick, Daniel Nielson, Siaosi Aiono, Vyncent Jones, Isaac Asiata, Tevita Stevens, Jeremiah Tofaeono, Sam Tui'one, Court Walker, Latu Heimuli

Favorites: Sam Brenner, Miles Mason, Percy Taumoelau, Jeremiah Tofaeono, Tevita Stevens, Latu Heimuli
Dark Horse: Isaac Asiata, Siaosi Aiono
Winners: Latu Heimuli and Miles Mason

Utah returns three starting guards from last season in Sam Brenner, Miles Mason and Latu Heimuli. Even starting Center Tevita Stevens has experience starting at guard, a spot he held for the 2010 season. Utah should feel very confident that whoever starts at Guard will be a high level performer. Miles Mason was a huge surprise last season, coming from nowhere to becoming a starter in week 1. While Mason probably wasn't ready for the load placed on his shoulders last season, he grew a lot from the process, and should be ready to step in and be a reliable option in 2012. Latu Heimuli made the switch from Defense to Offense midway through last season, and with only a couple of weeks of preparation time, claimed the starting guard position. Heimuli showed flashes of being a special talent at Guard, though injuries ended yet another season short for Heimuli. Utah coaches believe Heimuli will end his Utah career as an all-conference player. Jeremiah Tofaeono got some limited reps last season, and also showed flashes. Vyncent Jones is another guy that has a chance to influence the guard position. If Jones shows signs of progression this spring, he could push for a rotational spot at guard, or if he's good enough, he might play center which would allow Stevens to slide back to Guard.

Keep an eye on freshmen Isaac Asiata and Siaosi Aiono. Both players redshirted last season, though had it not been for an ankle sprain in fall camp, and the emergence of Miles Mason, Isaac Asiata might have started at guard last season for the Utes. Asiata might miss the 2012 season to serve a mission, but if he stays around, he's got a chance to be in the mix at guard this season. Aiono is a guy who joined the Utes with high expectations placed on him from the coaches. From all accounts, he played very well during practices, and is already a large, physical player up front.

Center
Candidates: Tevita Stevens, Vyncent Jones
Favorite: Tevita Stevens
Dark Horse: Vyncent Jones
Winner: Tevita Stevens

The center position is probably the most solidified position on the roster for the Utes. Tevita Stevens has the starting job locked up, and is poised for a breakout senior season full of conference accolades. Waiting in the wings is Vyncent Jones, who has been waiting for his opportunity to emerge. Expect Stevens to spend a lot of time on the sideline this spring, as Utah will seek to keep the senior healthy. Jones needs to prove to the coaches that he can be the next Ute center. If he doesn't perform at a high level, Utah has a couple of very highly regarded recruits that will join the team this summer.

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