While much of the focus in football is on positions outside the tackles, the offensive line is arguably the most important group on the field at any given time. It is responsible for protecting the quarterback and running back as they execute plays behind the line of scrimmage. The position of left tackle has become one of the most coveted positions in the NFL, and college football by extension. The University of Utah has had an unprecedented level of talent on the offensive line, a group that always factors in Utah’s place among the best teams in the Pac-12.
Utah’s offensive line has been a staple to the program for much of its recent history. In 2016 alone, the Utes sent four of their starting seven linemen to NFL teams, a significant portion of their school-record eight players to be drafted that year. Garrett Bolles, Utah’s left tackle, was drafted 20th overall as a junior, Utah’s highest draftee since Alex Smith went first overall in 2005 to the San Francisco 49ers. In the first round of the NFL Draft, teams are looking for their biggest needs, and the Denver Broncos, the team that took Bolles, needed talent that could protect their million-dollar quarterback. The importance of the offensive line (left tackle in particular) is what makes the Utes one of the premier teams in the country. This year, the Utes will look to seniors Lo Falemaka and Alani Havili-Katoa, who’ve seen increased reps in practice as the summer has progressed. The Utes will also rely heavily on freshmen and sophomores in the lineup, players who largely lost playing time to upperclassmen who now play in the NFL, such as Braeden Daniels and Keven Dixon. The talent is definitely there within the line group, but the scouting for the O-line is largely credited to the scouting done by Freddie Whittingham and coaching by offensive line coordinator Jim Harding.
The Utes, more likely than not, will have one of the best offensive lines in the country. After taking only 25 sacks last year, the Utes will look to keep that number as low as possible. The other lines in the Pac-12 are definitely formidable comparisons, and with the departure of several assets to the line, Utah will need to fill some impressive shoes. The Stanford Cardinals boast an impressive line mostly comprised of returning veterans, such as Nate Herbig and Foster Sarell. The Huskies of the University of Washington will be one of Utah’s more challenging opponents, boasting a formidable front with Trey Adams and Jake Hanson, Jr. protecting Heisman frontrunner Jake Browning. The University of Arizona, Oregon State University and UCLA sit near the bottom of the Pac-12 in terms of last season’s production with their offensive lines.
Utah’s offensive line continues to be a staple to the program and will work in tandem with the other units in what will be a powerful offense for years to come.