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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

Utah football fall practice position preview: offensive line

By Carter Williams, Deseret News

Published: Sat, July 26 10:00 a.m. MDT

 Hiva Lutui left, Viliseni Fauonuku practice with the University of Utah football team in Salt Lake City, Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Hiva Lutui left, Viliseni Fauonuku practice with the University of Utah football team in Salt Lake City, Thursday, April 18, 2013.

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s perhaps no corps in football more important and underappreciated more than the offensive line. An offense is typically only as good as its offensive line, and on the line, experience makes all the difference.

The Utes will feature a line this year with four linemen that started at one point or another last season. Three of the five projected starters on Utah’s line this year are upperclassmen.

However, there is also youth on the line, and Utah will look to balance the two this season as it heads into its tough regular season schedule.

Returning experience

The Utes have four starting offensive linemen from last year returning this season.

Left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi (6-foot-6, 320 pounds), right guard Junior Salt (6-2, 315) and right tackle Isaac Asiata (6-4, 310) each return. Siaosi Aiono (6-2, 305), who spent time at right tackle last season, moves to center this year.

Only Poutasi has more than 15 career starts in his collegiate career, but there are 46 combined total starts between the four guys. Aiono has learned the center position quickly, beginning in practice this spring and is projected to become the starting center.

Poutasi will look to anchor the group as the most experienced linemen and might be able to put himself into Pac-12 postseason award spotlight.

Guards Marc Pouvave (6-3, 302), Hiva Lutui (6-1, 294), Kala Friel (6-3, 315) and Derek Tuimauga (6-3, 316), as well as tackles J.J. Dielman (6-5, 295), and center Nick Nowakowski (6-1, 295) each have at least one varsity letter.

Key additions

Incoming freshman Jackson Barton (6-7, 300) adds size and talent as a four-star recruit. The Brighton High product enrolled early to participate in spring practice. He enters as the fourth-best tackle recruit in the country, according to Rivals.com and is one of the top 100 overall recruits in the country.

Though redshirt freshman tackle Salesi Uhatafe (6-4, 315) is not a fresh face to the Utes, he will be new to the line come game day. Uhatafe won the final starting job — at right guard — out of spring practice, and will be another key addition to the line. Rivals.com rated Uhatafe as a three-star recruit last year out of Euless, Texas.

Tackle Andrew Albers (6-7, 310) redshirted last season after transferring from Orange Coast College and adds more size to the tackle position.

Dark horse

Aiono may not have experience at center, but has the potential to be a productive center to help anchor the line and one of the unsung heroes on the line. He played well as an undersized tackle, but could be the perfect fit to play center. He showed strong ability in spring practice at the spot despite having very little experience at the spot.

General outlook

The Utes have a solid and seasoned line that mixes in some fresh, young talent. It has the potential to help open up more of the Utes offense that struggled last season.

The line should have little to no problems by the start of the season against FCS Idaho State and Fresno State. The real question will be how they hold up once the Utes hit the thick of their schedule?

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1. Stringer Bell
Henderson, NV,
July 26, 2014

Looks to much better situation than last year's spotty OL play. An improved, more experienced line, a healthy QB with a qualified backup, potentially very good running backs and IF the WR's can hold on to the ball this could be the year we get over the hump. Can't wait!

2. TrueBlue=AggieBlue
Logan, UT,
July 26, 2014

I disagree about the line having "little to no problem" with Fresno State. Sure, Fresno is no Stanford or Oregon, but they definitely don't belong in the same sentence with Idaho State like that. I think Utah can beat, them, though. Last year it was all about Derek Carr, and while the defense had a pretty decent pass-rush, they still weren't spectacular and will have to pick up a lot more slack. Carr and the offense scored a lot of points last year and gave the defense a lot of beeathing room last year, but it probably won't be the same this year.

3. Big 12 Call Yet?
Ogden, UT,
July 26, 2014

trueblue,

Last year the Pac 12 went 14-1 against the WAC(including byu).

The Utah Fresno game is Pac 12 against WAC, and we know how those games go now don't we?

4. taylormade1
Springville, UT,
July 26, 2014

31-27 bulldogs . No linebackers equals no defense .

5. AggieFan4Ever
Logan, UT,
July 26, 2014

Geez, don't get so defensive, Big 12. Notice that I said I thought Utah could beat them? But then again, there isn't as much disparity between the P5 and the G5 as one might think. A PAC-12 bottom feeder against the reigning MWC champ should be a fun matchup to see. Notice that I said MWC, not WAC. News flash: WAC football disbanded after the 2012 season. Get your facts straight