SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to the offensive line, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is optimistic about the group the Utes have in the program.

“This could be the deepest and most talented O-line that we’ve had, from one to 15, in a long time,” he said.

Whittingham added that Utah’s offensive line was real good a few years ago — four players were drafted in 2017 — and he’s not saying the current group will be great right away. However, he said there’s some very good players up front.

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Seniors Orlando Umana and Bamidele Olaseni man the center and left tackle positions, respectively. Umana started 12 games last season and earned honorable mention all-conference recognition. Olaseni, a junior college All-American, was limited to just two games. The 6-foot-7, 332-pound Olaseni is now fully cleared to resume his career.

Whittingham said that junior Nick Ford is a “proven commodity and one of the best linemen in Pac-12.” Ford is versatile enough to play every position on the line.

Sophomore Braeden Daniels started all 14 games at left guard in 2019. Sophomore tackle Simi Moala is another sizeable force for the Utes.

Whittingham said the Utes are also very high on redshirt freshman Keaton Bills, sophomore Johnny Maea and redshirt freshman Sataoa Laumea. Whittingham said Laumea is a star of the future with a tremendous upside.

The future is also bright for freshmen Alex Harrison, Falcon Kaumatule, Jaren Kump and Hunter Lotulelei.

“The list goes on and on,” Whittingham said. “It’s going to be a fierce competition at O-line because there’s so many good players.”

“We did some really good things along the way. We had an eight-game stretch there that was dominating as any thing I’ve seen in the Pac-12. Then we just didn’t finish the last two, which is unfortunate. But they played pretty darn good during that eight-game stretch.” — Kyle Whittingham

Whittingham was pleased, for the most part, with the offensive line’s performance last season. Darrin Paulo was the lone senior starter and the younger players continued to learn and grow. Even so, Whittingham said they’ve got to get better. He added that offensive line coach Jim Harding will be the first to admit that.

“We did some really good things along the way. We had an eight-game stretch there that was dominating as any thing I’ve seen in the Pac-12,” Whittingham said. “Then we just didn’t finish the last two, which is unfortunate. But they played pretty darn good during that eight-game stretch.”

Utah won eight straight games to repeat as Pac-12 South champions. The Utes then dropped a 37-15 decision to Oregon in the conference championship game. That was followed by a 38-10 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

After giving up just 10 sacks over the first 12 games of the season, Utah surrendered a total of 11 in the setbacks to the Ducks and Longhorns.