Spring Position Outlook: Offensive Line

The Utah offensive line needs to reload. Here are the contenders to do it...

Utah loses five players with starting experience on the offensive line, and will have to find replacements and build depth up front. Spring will be a key time for young players to compete for spots on the two-deep.

Left tackle Garret Bolles, left guard Isaac Asiata, centers J.J. Dielman and Nick Nowakowsi and right tackle Sam Tevi lall graduated. That is a list full of talent and experience. Right guard Salesi Uhatafe emerged in 2016 as one of the better interior linemen in the conference, but he will be surrounded by inexperience in 2017. Uhatafe will probably be held out of team work and other contact parts of spring practices to reduce the risk of injury. Utah will get long looks at some promising freshmen and sophomores throughout spring practices.

Incumbents

Utah does not return many players with experience, not to mention starting experience. Uhatefe is a lock to start at guard.

Jackson Barton is the early favorite to take over at left tackle. The junior lineman has played in 17 games on the line with two starts last season. Barton can play either tackle position, but his length (6-foot-7) and athleticism fit well on the left side. He lacks the punishing demeanor of Bolles, but Barton is a more polished pass protector.

Senior Lo Falemaka played in 11 games in 2016, taking reps at center in two games. He missed several games with injury and spent most of last season as the backup center. Falemaka is undersized at 290 pounds, but he moves well and was solid snapping the ball. He needs to add size and strength and become a better all-around blocker.

Challengers

Sophomore Darrin Paulo enters as the favorite to take over for Asiata at left guard. Paulo has good size at 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, and has the athleticism to play multiple positions. He has seen time at right tackle and guard. Paulo can pop defenders and has improved his footwork and technique. He played in every game last season on special teams, and played on the line against Oregon State.

Johnny Capra has the size to play at tackle, and the 6-foot-6, 310 pound sophomore has spent most of his time at Utah as a right tackle. The question is can Capra play with proper leverage and technique, developing into a starting-caliber player? He could also see time at guard.

Keven Dixon is in the same boat as Capra. In two years at Utah he has yet to see the field. Dixon has the length and athleticism to play anywhere on the line, though most of his time has been spent on the interior. Dixon could push for playing time at left guard and center, though he could also see work at right tackle.

Darkhorses

Scott Peck dealt with injuries his first season. The former top lineman from the state of Washington could compete for playing time at right tackle.

Tucker Scott could quickly find himself in the mix for playing time at center. The son of two-time All-WAC center Lance Scott, he has the background to go along with the physical tools.

Jake Grant might lack ideal size, but he has the strength to play on the interior. Grant took the long road to Utah, turning down other offers to grayshirt at Utah, joining the team last spring.

Position Outlook

From a potential standpoint, the Utes have plenty of talent on the offensive line. What they lack is experience and technique. Jim Harding will have to get the young group up to speed quickly. There will be a drop off from last season, as inexperienced lines typically do not perform as well as experienced units, even with more talent. It is time for the redshirt freshmen and sophomores to turn potential into production.


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