‘No one’s out here lollygagging’: Who’s battling for starting jobs on Utah’s offensive line?
O-line coach Jim Harding is working to develop versatility on the offensive line, which makes players more marketable
Utah’s offensive line returns three starters — left guard Keaton Bills, right guard Michael Mokofisi and right tackle Sataoa Laumea.
“We had pretty good depth last year. Our No. 2 group last year had some great players,” he said. “This year, we’ve lost Braeden Daniels and Paul Maile, two amazing players. So we have two big spots to fill but I know for a fact that the backups are going to step up.” — Utah offensive lineman Keaton Bills
And the Utes boast an O-line room brimming with depth and talent.
Among those vying for starting spots are Zereoue Williams, Falcon Kaumatule, Jaren Kump, Tanoa Togiai and Kolinu’u Faaiu, Spencer Fano, Solatoa Moeai, Hunter Deuel, Johnny Maea and Keith Olson.
How does Bills assess the O line?
“We had pretty good depth last year. Our No. 2 group last year had some great players,” he said. “This year, we’ve lost Braeden Daniels and Paul Maile, two amazing players. So we have two big spots to fill but I know for a fact that the backups are going to step up.”
Offensive line coach Jim Harding is happy with what he saw from his linemen during the spring.
“The thing that sticks out the most is their willingness to work. They’re doing a great job of taking the fundamentals and techniques we’re doing in individual drills and trying to incorporate them in the crossover stuff,” he said. “It’s a really good group of kids. We’re excited about what the fall holds for this group. Certainly, we have work to do between now and the first time we line up. But we have a good foundation set.”
Which O linemen have stood out?
“No one specifically. I think everyone is out here busting their butt. No one’s out here lollygagging,” he said. “Everyone’s trying to get better and trying to do more and always trying to get an extra rep. That’s what I love to see from the guys behind me. Everyone’s trying their hardest.”
Harding is working to develop versatility on the offensive line.
“What I tell the players is, in my opinion, the more marketable you are, the more opportunities you have at the next level. You look at somebody like Braeden Daniels last year,” he said. “He never played center in a game but we have film that’s been requested of the reps he took at center in practice from NFL teams.
“That’s a great example of what I just said. The more positions you can play, and show on film, whether it’s in practice or on Saturday, you have a better opportunity down the road.”
Harding commented on a couple of younger players, including Olson and Moeai.
“He’s got a tremendous upside. He comes from a small school in Washington. He suffered an injury at the end of his high school career that kept him out of the majority of fall,” he said of Olson. “He’s got flexibility in terms of guard or tackle. A big body like that would be a good road grader inside.
“He moved better than I thought coming off the injury that he had. He has a high ceiling. He’ll probably get guard and tackle reps. I don’t know his final landing spot yet. I need a bigger body of work.”
Of Moeai, who recently returned from a church mission, Harding said, “He’s somebody that’s done a tremendous job trying to reshape his body. He’s busted his tail from January until mid-March. If he continues to be consistent with that aspect of his training and his approach ... For as big as he is, to move as well as he does, is really incredible. He tested really well in the weight room in January and February. I’m really high on him. He has a tremendous future.”