It’s no secret that Utah’s offensive line went through some struggles early in the 2021 season.

But the 2022 campaign has been a different story, much to the delight of O-line coach Jim Harding.

“Certainly a faster start than what we’ve had in years’ past but plenty of things we need to work on, including this past week there are still fundamentals that we continue to hone in on,” Harding said. “This week presents a huge challenge for us. We need to be ready to go.”

The Utes host San Diego State Saturday (8 p.m. MDT, ESPN2). 

To what does Harding attribute to the faster start?

“A lot of it had to do with the fact that we identified the guys that we thought would be the starting five or maybe six or seven guys sooner that we knew would be in that starting five,” he said. “Those guys being able to play a little bit longer helped in fall camp.”

One of those linemen that has emerged this season is freshman Michael Mokofisi, who earned the starting job at right guard. 

“He’s extremely physical, almost to the point where you have to reel him back in,” Harding said. “There were a couple of things that he did on Saturday (against Southern Utah), a little bit close to the edge. But I’d rather have to pull a kid back than to get him to go. High football IQ but more than anything, he’s just a physical kid and he enjoys being physical.”

In the 73-7 victory over SUU, the second team and third team got some quality reps. 

“I was really proud of the way the second group worked. There wasn’t a big dropoff in terms of, we did have a couple of penalties but it wasn’t false starts or erratic snaps,” Harding said. “I was really pleased with how they performed. That experience is invaluable in the event that they get thrown in a game down the road.”

Harding said having depth is “a luxury,” but he’s hoping for continuity this season. 

“Right now, we have nine or 10 guys that you feel comfortable playing,” he said. “Certainly, this past Saturday all those guys got about 30 reps, which I think are invaluable. It’s a chance to evaluate them in a game situation … I think we do have the depth but certainly I hope we don’t have to test the depth.”


Utes on the air

San Diego State (1-1) at No. 14 Utah (1-1) 

Saturday, 8 p.m. MDT

Rice-Eccles Stadium 

TV: ESPN2

Radio: ESPN 700