FALL CAMP PREVIEW: OFFENSIVE LINE
In 2013, the offensive line was touted as Utah’s best position group and an area of strength for the team. We all know how that went and now with a coaching change to Jim Harding, this group of talented and relatively inexperienced group is viewed as a real question mark. Can Harding pull the right strings to deliver an offensive line that can open holes and protect the quarterback? Here’s who he has to work with. Pre-Fall Camp Depth Chart Left Tackle Jeremiah Poutasi Andrew Albers Left Guard Junior Salt Hiva Lutui Center Siaosi Aiono Nick Nowakowski Right Guard Salesi Uhatafe Marc Pouvave Right Tackle Isaac Asiata J.J. Dielman The Contenders Siaosi Aiono Aiono will anchor this group and take over for Vyncent Jones at the center position. Aiono is a solid lineman who should be more comfortable in the middle. Osi is definitely a smart and tough player and has transitioned well from right tackle over to the center spot. I’m told that Aiono has the potential to become a darkhorse all conference performer in his two remaining seasons with the Utes. He did well in the spring and has certainly earned his spot as a starting center. Andrew Albers Albers is long at 6'7 and 310 pounds but doesn't have the body of a prototypical left tackle...yet. He certainly has size, but the question remains if it’s in the right place. Albers had a disappointing spring outside of the Red White game. He struggled to cover the edges well and seemed slow in drills and scrimmages. Albers needs serious work in the weight room to equal the size of his fellow linemen and it will be interesting to see what sort of shape we’ll see from him in the fall. Isaac Asiata Asiata will get plenty of run at the right tackle position which he seemed to own most of the spring. He did well, but like most of Utah’s tackles, he struggled with speed rushes from fellow teammates like Nate Orchard and Pita Taumoepenu. He’s got great potential on the line, but might be more natural as a guard. Utah may not have the luxury of putting him there in 2014. Jackson Barton Barton is a beast, but likely a redshirt for the 2014 campaign. Jackson worked his tail off all spring and proved to be a quick learner, but he’s still in an 18 year old body (a huge 18 year old body) and doesn’t have the upper body size you see as linemen mature into massive men. He really struggled in the Red White game and looked more lost than anyone on the field at times. He’s a year away, but will get plenty of work this fall as he develops. J.J. Dielman Who do defensive lineman hate going against in drills and scrimmages? Most will say J.J. Dielman according to Hunter Dimick. Dielman can be nasty in trenches and is considered to be one of the strongest guys on the team. Dielman is the wildcard of this group and will likely be pushing Isaac Asiata for the starting right tackle position during Fall camp. Lo Falemaka Lo is still young and undersized compared to some of his teammates. He’s got a great upside, but it's still early for Falemaka, as 2015 will likely be his year for a realistic shot to contribute on the field. Kala Friel Time is running out for Friel who should be focused on getting onto the Jim Harding’s two deep roster. He’s not there now and needs to find a way to impress the Utah staff this fall. Because he's surrounded by up-and-coming talent, it could be tough for Friel to land on the depth chart this season. Hiva Lutui Hiva has worked his way into being a solid backup a guard and will definitely find opportunities to get on the field this year as he continues to develop. Whittingham is very high on the former Euless, Texas recruit who will be pushing Junior Salt at the left guarld position. Hiva has been a solid performer so far and developed nicely so far in the program. Barring injuries on the starting offensive line, look of Hiva to get his chance to start in 2015. Nick Nowakowski Have you ever tried to move a large tree stump from it’s place? That’s what it must feel like for defensive lineman who go again Nick Nowakowski. He’s not the biggest or strongest guy on the team, but he is solid from head to toe with the stumpiest legs I’ve every seen on a lineman. Mobility may be key for many of the offensive line positions, but being a center might be the best spot for Nowakowski who is listed as the backup for Siaosi Aiono. Jeremiah Poutasi Poutasi has all the tools needed to be an elite player, but came into last season a bit over-hyped and definitely overweight. After being embarrassed against some of the best talent in the country, Poutasi has enters the season at the right weight and hopefully, the right attitude as the looks to be the left tackle he was born to be. Poutasi has all of the tools to be great, it’s now up to him to put them to use. Marc Pouvave Marc was a solid get two years ago and a strong candidate for a starting position in 2012 before being injured and sidelined for the entire season. Pouvave is a massive man, but struggles moving laterally and staying healthy. Hopefully he can avoid injuries this season and get a chance to contribute before his time at Utah is over at the end of the season. Junior Salt Salt debuted as a starting right guard last season and at times, he looked like an unstoppable truck as the carved open gaps in the running game. At other times, he look like a runaway truck not knowing where to go or who to block. Salt now moves over the left side of the line and will now work with Poutasi on their blocking assignments. Junior will certainly be better with a full season under his belt and only one season left to impress potential NFL suitors of his talents. Salt has a definite mean streak in him and when he figures it all out, he could be dangerous. Salesi Uhatafe Leka has very good size and moves pretty well, a must for Jim Harding’s revamped line and blocking schemes. Uhatafe has a tremendous upside but is still pretty raw and young. He came to Utah out of shape with a "chunky" body. He’s in shape now and could be a 4 year start at Utah. He will certainly be challenged by Hiva Lutui and others for his starting position this fall. Projected Depth Chart Pre-Fall Camp Depth Chart Left Tackle Jeremiah Poutasi Andrew Albers Left Guard Junior Salt Hiva Lutui Center Siaosi Aiono Nick Nowakowski Right Guard Salesi Uhatafe Marc Pouvave Right Tackle Isaac Asiata J.J. Dielman
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