As one of the most heavily recruited prep football players in state history a few years ago, Orem High’s Kingsley Suamataia had his future all mapped out.

The five-star recruit who was ranked as high as No. 36 in the country in the 2021 class planned to play for the Oregon Ducks for two years, then enter the 2023 NFL draft.

“Straight out of high school, I wanted to be two years in college and out. But the man upstairs had different plans for me, and here I am.” — BYU left tackle Kingsley Suamataia

“Straight out of high school, I wanted to be two years in college and out,” he said. “But the man upstairs had different plans for me, and here I am.”

Where the 6-foot-6, 315-pound offensive lineman is now is at BYU, anchoring an offensive line that many believe will be better in 2023 than it was in 2022, despite the losses of Blake Freeland, Harris LaChance, Joe Tukuafu and Clark Barrington.

Suamataia has moved from right tackle, where he shined in what was his redshirt freshman season — he started in 12 games and never allowed a sack — to left tackle, the spot held down the past few years by Freeland.

Suamataia acknowledged to the Deseret News last week that this will “probably” be his final season at BYU. So while Freeland will almost certainly be the first Cougar taken April 27-29 at Union Station in Kansas City, his successor at left tackle will quite likely be the first Cougar taken in the 2024 draft in Detroit.

“I definitely want to play in the NFL,” Suamataia said. “That is a no-brainer. So however this season goes (will be the determining factor), but I am really looking forward to it. It is not so much to follow other people’s footsteps, but taking my own path and seeing what best fits me and my family.”

As for switching positions on the OL, Suamataia said he feels comfortable playing anywhere on the line except center.

“I prefer left tackle, but I could play any one of them, so it is good,” he said. “Last year, Blake was the veteran there (at left tackle) and so I worked to play whatever position they needed me to play at.”

Freeland was sensational in the NFL combine earlier this month in Indianapolis, setting a combine record with a mark of 37 inches in the vertical jump. He ran his first 40-yard dash in 4.99 seconds and his second in 4.96 seconds.

Suamataia wasn’t surprised.

“Playing with him, playing on the other side of him, it is nothing new,” he said. “I knew what he was going to do. I knew he was going to run fast and jump far and high. That’s Blake.”

BYU offensive lineman, Kingsley Suamataia, grants an interview after the Cougars practice in Provo on Friday, March 17, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Said offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick on Freeland’s performance at BYU’s pro day last Friday: “Blake is a freak. He is the most athletic big man I’ve ever seen. He is explosive. His ability to change direction at his size is amazing. He also brings a lot of toughness, which is what makes him an elite player.”

BYU offensive line coach Darrell Funk said Suamataia isn’t quite as tall as Freeland, but has many of the same attributes.

“As much of a freak as Blake was at the NFL combine and everything, Kingsley is super athletic and in a lot of ways more (athletic) than Blake, in some instances. So we haven’t lost anything there.”

Funk, who has coached offensive line at Michigan (2011-14) and Purdue (2016) in the Big Ten, says Suamataia is one of those Power Five-caliber players that BYU will need in the Big 12, even if it is just for one year.

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“We are trying to get a better type of player here every year,” Funk said. “But if I am not mistaken, the last two years we were 8-3 against Power Fives. So it is not like we haven’t played those guys. I mean, we play the big boys.

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“Michigan and the Big Ten, yeah, the top-level programs there are tough. There are some lower-level teams that are nothing to write home about in terms of that.

“Certainly the physical level is there in the Big Ten. But the Big 12 is terrific, and we are going to have to step up our game. Our players have to get better, our coaching has to get better, we have to recruit better. That’s just part of it.”

With Suamataia and other pro prospects such as center Connor Pay, Utah transfer Paul Maile and left guard Lisala Tai, Funk says the foundation has been set for another good season.

“I am confident that we will hit the ground running and have a great year,” he said. “I believe that.”

BYU offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia, right, and other linemen trot back onto the field as the Cougars practice in Provo on Friday, March 17, 2023. Says offensive line coach Darrell Funk of his group: “I am confident that we will hit the ground running and have a great year.” | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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