Utah has a new left tackle protecting quarterback Cam Rising’s blind side.

During the spring, junior Braeden Daniels moved from right tackle to left tackle, replacing Bamidele Olaseni

“I’m still refining the details,” Daniels said. “I’m trying to not just get the job done but be a dominant left tackle and be that guy that people can depend on. It’s been a good spring, working on my technique. It’s getting better each and every day.”

The 6-foot-4, 299-pound junior from Carrollton, Texas, started all 14 games last season, including three at left guard and 11 at right tackle. Daniels earned All-Pac-12 second-team honors. 

Offensive line coach Jim Harding explained why Daniels is playing left tackle now.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that he has experience and has played at a high level. He was an all-conference player. That plays into it. He’s a guy that is doing the right things off the field as well,” he said. “He’s very attentive in meetings. He’s got a high football IQ. A lot of kids seek him to get answers outside of meeting time. (Offensive lineman) Paul Maile, though he’s been limited, has done a nice job. That’s what you want — your veteran players and Paul and Braeden have done a nice job that way.”

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What kind of jump has Daniels made over the past year? 

“He continues to refine his game. We switched him over to left tackle and it took him a practice or two to get comfortable there. But he’s really embraced that,” Harding said. “He knows that it’s a position that we value a lot. We try to put one of our better players in that position. He’s done a nice job. His football IQ is really high. That’s helped him transition maybe a little bit faster than what we were expecting.”

Coach Kyle Whittingham likens Daniels to center Nick Ford, who, like Olaseni, is hoping to hear his name called in next week’s NFL draft.

“He’s a lot like Nick Ford in that he can play all five spots. He really gives us some versatility and combinations out there,” Whittingham said of Daniels. “He can snap it, and he can play inside or outside. He’s a guy that plays at a high level.

“That’s what you’re looking for — your best five guys. With that versatility, that allows us a lot of different options. He’s really smart. To learn all five spots you have to be intelligent. He’s one of the team leaders and we’re grateful that he’s back this year.”

Daniels takes pride in being able to play multiple positions along the O-line.

“In high school, I played both tackles. We’d switch in the middle of the game. That’s where it started,” he said. “I was able to be versatile. Coach Harding always preaches about versatility and how at the next level, you can be a guy that can play all five positions. It’s learned over time. Coach Harding has been working with me. I’m learning in every practice and I’ve been doing that since my freshman year.”

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Daniels added that he learned a lot from Ford during his time at Utah. 

“Nick Ford was my big brother on the football team. He taught me a lot. We still chat every now and then,” he said. “I try to figure out how he’s able to dissect different pressures and make the correct calls. I ask for his two cents, to help me become the best player I can be.”

With Ford and Olaseni moving on, Daniels is hoping the offensive line can build rapport during the remainder of the offseason.

“We’re starting to really gel and bond a little bit. The summertime is going to be really good for us to do team activities — go to a water park or paint-balling,” he said. “It’s building team chemistry to find that foundation for the O-block and get everybody on the same page and be a great O-line.”

While he’s not looking too far ahead at his future, seeing Ford and Olaseni chase their NFL dreams has helped him realize that he’ll have that same opportunity eventually. 

“That’s definitely been something I’ve been working for my whole life,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s kind of exciting to see it coming to fruition.”