Everyone knows a good offense only goes as far as its offensive line allows it to. In fact, if the big fellas up front aren’t up to par, you can pretty much expect your offense to not be very good at all. The offensive line is the engine of the offense, when it’s clicking on all cylinders it’s a beautiful thing but when it’s sputtering, well, you get the picture.
Utah’s offensive line returns most of their starters from last season minus Junior Salt and Jeremiah Poutasi. The right side of the line will most likely be held down by guard Salesi Uhatafe 6’4 315lb So and Sam Tevi 6’5 300lb Jr or Jackson Barton 6’6 310lb Fr, with Tevi holding a slight edge right now. Uhatafe played in all 13 games last season amassing 5 starts while splitting time with Junior Salt. Tevi is a converted defensive lineman, who played in all 13 games last season, mostly special teams, but saw some action in 3 games along the offensive line. Barton, who redshirted last year, will look to battle it out with Tevi again come fall camp for that starting right tackle job. As you can see, the right side of the line is somewhat of a work in progress for the Utes. What they lack in experience they will for surely make up for in talent.
At center, the Utes return Siaosi Aiono a 6’2 305lb Sr who played quite well for the Utes last season in his first year as the man in the middle. A Rimington Trophy Watch List and All Conference Candidate, Aiono is the leader of this unit and will look to add to his stellar 2014 season.
The left side of the line, in my opinion, is the strong side. J.J. Dielman 6’5 300lb Jr will move over to the left tackle position after playing and starting all 13 games at right tackle last season. Paired with him at left guard will be none other than “Mr. Versatility” himself Isaac Asiata 6’4 315lb Jr. Asiata has played all over the Utes offensive line and has basically been a starter since he was a freshman. Asiata is known for his tenacity and downright nastiness (nastiness being a good thing in this case) on the field. Dielman and Asiata should be a formidable duo along the left side. Both players are comfortable playing either side of the line, so if the Utes run into any problems, injuries, etc…,the offensive line should be just fine.
The key concern for me is that right tackle spot and the lack of in-game experience.
Will Tevi be able to hold onto his starting spot this fall? or Will Barton be able to supplant him as starter?
Will Tevi, if named the starter, be able to adapt to the speed of Pac 12 defensive ends? Most of his in-game experience was against Idaho State and Fresno State.
If Barton is able to supplant Tevi as the starter, will he be able to adapt his game to the speed of the Pac 12 defensive ends coming off a redshirt season?
In game experience is always a factor but some players are thrown to the wolves and come out on top. I believe that Tevi and/or Barton have the talent and ability to overcome their lack of experience and make up for it with stellar play. There’s a reason that the coaches have these two listed as 1 and 2 on the depth chart. Not to mention I can take solace in the fact that these guys are going up against some of the best ends in the Pac 12 everyday in practice.
You know what they say, “Practice Makes Perfect.”