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BYU Football 2017 Offensive Line Preview: Can experienced offensive line withstand grueling first month?

BYU returns an experienced offensive line

BYU v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

With major question marks surrounding the wide receiver and running back units, the offensive line will look to anchor BYU’s pro-style offense. Although the line did have its struggles during the year, they paved the way for a spectacular season for Jamaal Williams, and they return 4/5 starters along the line this year.

With another year in Ty Detmer’s system and another offseason of strength conditioning, the offensive line should be one of the strengths of the team.

Tackles:

  • Thomas Shoaf (RS SO): After returning home from a LDS mission, Shoaf hit the ground running and had one of the most surprising years on the team, as he was named a FWAA Freshman All-American. Shoaf started 9 games for BYU at right tackle, and will likely slide over to the ever important left tackle spot to fill in for the graduated Andrew Eide. Shoaf has focused on putting on weight, and the media day guide listed the 6’5” Shoaf at 275 lbs.

Shoaf will have more pressure on him now that he is covering Tanner Mangum’s blind side, but the Indiana native will have high expectations after coming off an all-american season.

  • Kieffer Longson (RS FR): After redshirting last season, the 6’7”, 321 lbs Longson will look to live up to the hype in his first season with Cougars. A 4-star prospect out of high school, Longson chose BYU over the likes of Florida State, Ohio State, UCLA, Utah, and a host of others. With his large frame, Longson will compete for the starting right tackle position.

Longson may have the highest ceiling of any lineman on the team, so he is worth keeping on eye on not only this season, but also in the future as he progresses in his BYU career.

  • John (Taipe) Vaka (JR): The JUCO transfer signed with BYU this past winter after being committed to Oregon. Vaka will compete right away for a starting tackle position. The 6’5”, 275 lbs Oakland product will likely need to put on some more weight if he wants to start this season. With 2 years of JUCO ball under his belt, Sitake and the staff brought Vaka in to compete for playing time right away.
  • Austin Hoyt (RS JR) : Hoyt is listed as a tackle on the current depth chart, but he was also getting looks in the interior of the offensive line during spring ball. Hoyt stands at 6’8”, 305 lbs and played in all 13 games this past season, starting in 2. Hoyt will battle with Vaka and Longson for one of the tackle spots. Longson and Vaka are the odds-on favorites to land one of the spots, but Hoyt will at minimum bring depth to BYU’s line, something that has been lacking in previous years.

Other to watch:

  • JJ Nwigwe (JR): The 6’5”, 275 Texas product played in all 12 games last season. Nwigwe received praise at times from coaches during spring ball, and could turn some heads in fall camp.

Center:

  • Tejan Koroma (SR) : The anchor of BYU’s line and one of the most valuable players on the team, Koroma enters his senior year with 38 starts under his belt. After Tanner Mangum, Koroma may the next player to whom BYU can least afford an injury. He was graded as the 2nd highest returning center in college football:

If Koroma can stay healthy for a 4th straight year (fingers crossed), BYU’s offense can rest easier having one of the nation’s most experienced players playing one of the most important positions.

Other to watch:

  • James Empey (FR): The son of offensive line coach Mike Empey, James signed with BYU after signing with Utah before his mission. Empey may redshirt this season as he gets back into football shape, but he could end up being BYU’s center of the future.

Guards

  • Tuni Kanuch (RS SR): The 5th year senior enters his final year with 16 starts under his belt. Kanuch has appeared in 37 games during his Cougar career, but injuries have hampered him during his time in Provo. At 6’3”, 320 lbs, Kanuch is arguably the most physical lineman on the team. Kanuch is road grader and helps set the tone for the entire line. A healthy Kanuch would go a long way in helping an inexperienced running back unit.
  • Keyan Norman (SR): Norman started all 13 games at guard last season after transferring from SUU. With experience at center at SUU, he is also listed as the backup center to Tejan. The 6’5”, 305 lbs Norman gives BYU a steady presence in the interior of the line that can play both guard and center.

Others to watch:

  • Austin Chambers (RS FR): The 6’5”, 311 lbs lineman from Kansas played at both guard and center during spring ball. Chambers redshirted last year after returning from a LDS mission, and will likely work his way into the starting conversation his sophomore year.
  • Chandon Herring (RS FR): A member of the 2014 recruiting class, Herring redshirted this past season. At 6’7”, 285 lbs, Herring has a big frame to grow into during his time at BYU.
  • Mango Finau (FR): A member of the 2017 recruiting class, Finau is HUGE. The 6’5”, 350 lbs Hawaiian will play (or redshirt) this season before deciding on a LDS mission.

Other Linemen to Know:

  • Ului Lapuaho (RS JR): After starting 2 games last year, Lapuaho missed the rest of the year and received a medical redshirt. Lapuaho will likely miss this season, but has hopes of returning and playing in 2018. A healthy Lapuaho would be a big boost for the offensive line.
  • Tristen Hoge (RS SO): The Notre Dame transfer is the most highly rated recruited player on BYU’s team. Hoge was the number one rated center in the 2015 class, and was the backup center at Notre Dame last season. Hoge submitted a waiver to be immediately eligible this season, but odds are that he will have to sit out and wait until 2018 to play. Hoge can play every position along the offensive line, but he will likely be Tejan Koroma’s replacement at center.