Season in Review: Offensive Line

Looking back at the offensive line for Utah in 2014

The Meat (Jr) Jeremiah Poutasi: 13 starts at left tackle
(Sr) Junior Salt: 7 starts at left guard, 1 start at right guard
(Jr) Siaosi Aiono: 12 starts at center
(So) Isaac Asiata: 6 starts at right guard, 6 starts at left guard
(So) J.J. Dielman: 13 starts at right tackle
(Fr) Leka Uhatafe: 5 starts at guard
(So) Hiva Lutui: 1 start at center
(Sr) Marc Pouvave: Played in 13 games
(So) Nick Nowakowski: Played in 13 games

The Breakdown
What a weird year for Utah on the offensive line. You could say the performance was very game to game, but it was really more like series to series. Some series the line would be dominant, opening up huge lanes and giving the QB plenty of time. The next series they'd get blown to pieces and look like a four high schoolers and Poutasi out there. The run blocking this season was better and more consistent than the pass blocking, which was often below par. As a whole though, they were definitely improved over last season as Jim Harding had the group making strides, especially in the second half of the year. Jeremiah Poutasi earned his all conference nod and looked like a new player this season. It helps when you're healthy. Unfortunately, Junior Salt did not live up to the billing, and was a rotational player that had lost his starting spot by the end of the year. Siaosi Aiono looked like one of the best centers in the conference and Isaac Asiata showed a lot of versatility in playing both guard spots, and even some tackle, although his performance was often up and down. JJ Dielman was a revelation at right tackle. The Sophomore was recruited to play center, but was a force by the of the year and showed a lot of potential. Most importantly for Utah this season, they stayed healthy on the offensive line. Sure, all the guys had nicks and bruises, but not a single big injury to the line was helpful in getting them to gel together.

Reason For Optimism In 2015
Four of your starters by the end of the end of the season are returning, including Siaosi Aiono, who could compete for all conference honors at center. Isaac Asiata can move around and Hiva Lutui is versatile enough to play three spots. Leka Uhatafe should be a year stronger and better and there's quite a bit of young (but unproven) talent in guys like Jackson Barton, Sam Tevi, and Lo Falemaka. Weight room development and assignment undestanding out of the linemen is imperative this offseason.

Reason For Concern In 2015
Poutasi is gone. Poutasi is gone. Poutasi is gone. Who's going to protect that left side? I don't care who steps in, there will be a drop-off. Whether it's Sam Tevi, Jackson Barton, or someone else, Poutasi was an elite offensive lineman and will be missed. There's still a lack of overall depth on the line for the Utes, and there aren't any JC guys (as it stands now) ready to plug in. Andrew Albers has been a disappointment. Outside of the top 6 or so (and that might even be a stretch), Utah is thin thin thin. Stay healthy, or they could be in some trouble if more than just a few of the young guys aren't ready.

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