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Countdown to Kickoff (32): Previewing BYU’s Offensive Line

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2019 season, the offensive line appears to be a strength of the team. BYU returns six guys with starting experience and looks to be legitimately two deep at every position. The offensive line better be ready from the get go, because they will be tested from day one and every one of the first four games. If the offensive line can live up to the hype and at least neutralize some of these fronts they’ll see the first month, BYU will have a shot versus every team on the schedule. If they struggle, however, we could be looking at an 0-4 start.

Below is a breakdown at how each spot is looking as we enter fall camp.

Tackles

Brady Christensen is back for his sophomore season at left tackle after starting all 13 games last year. Christensen was one of the surprises on the team and did a great job protecting Tanner Mangum’s and Zach Wilson’s blind side. Having an experienced left tackle will relieve pressure on the whole offense, and BYU still gets him for three more seasons.

At the right tackle spot, redshirt freshman Harris LaChance is expected to win that starting job. LaChance played in four games and last season and has one of the higher upsides out of any lineman on the team. At 6-foot-8 and 305 pounds, LaChance is a huge body that could develop into a really good tackle. Running backs Ty’son Williams are Lopini Katoa are guys that have speed to get to the edge, so having LaChance seal the outside could turn into some big runs for those guys.

5th-year senior Thomas Shoaf will likely be a backup and brings great experience and depth. Shoaf has started 24 games during his career and is more than capable of filling in if called upon. Other guys to watch at the tackle spots are redshirt freshman Clark Barrington and true freshman Blake Freeland.

Guards

Tristen Hoge is back for his junior year and will start once again at right tackle. Hoge started 13 games last year and is one of the most important offensive players. NFL scouts are aware of Hoge since he was the number one center coming out of high school in 2015, and a big junior year could persuade him to leave school early.

Three different guys could potentially start at the left guard spot. Kieffer Longson and Keanu Salepaga both started games last season, and redshirt junior Chandon Herring is in the mix as well after playing in 12 games last season. All three guys are north of 6-foot-6, 300 pounds and will all have shot to win the spot in fall camp. The two guys that don’t win it will provide good depth and experience to the group.

Another guy to watch is redshirt freshman Jacob Smith. Smith is a big offensive lineman from Minnesota who had an offer from the Gophers and was on the radar of many other P5 schools.

Center

James Empey is the guy here and one of the best NFL prospects on the entire team. Empey started all 13 games in 2018 and was named a Freshman All-American. Entering his sophomore season, Pro Football Focus has him as the second-highest graded center at the FBS level.

Empey is a very intelligent player who is a technician in the middle of the line. He still has three years of eligibility remaining, but he may go to the NFL before that.

Behind Empey is true freshman Caden Haws. Haws is from Arkansas and has bulked up considerably since returning from his mission. He’ll get to learn behind Empey for a couple years and is more than likely BYU’s center of the future.