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10 Biggest Spring Questions: No. 10 How will the Offensive Line Position Battles Shake Out?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Spring practice starts in less than a week. In the run up to the start of spring football, we will be looking at the 10 biggest questions. First up, we will be looking at the offensive line, specially how Utah utilizes all of the depth at the position. Utah has the enviable problem of having an embarrassment of riches at the position group. Utah returns four starters on the offensive line (only center Siaosi Aiono is not back). The returning starters include All-Pac-12 second team tackle J.J. Dielman and All-Pac-12 honorable mention guard Isaac Asiata. Additionally, players like tackle Jackson Barton and center/guard Hiva Lutui both have experience playing in games (Lutui has eight starts in his career, six at center and two at right guard). The most anticipated offensive lineman, NJCAA All-American offensive tackle Garett Bolles, will not arrive until fall. Bolles will likely challenge immediately for a starting spot, most likely at left tackle. Expect the position battles along the offense line to continue well into fall camp and be hotly contested.

In addition to position battles, it will be interesting to see how Utah gets reps for younger players in spring. Three potential starters will be seniors (left guard Isaac Asiata, center Hiva Lutui, and right tackle J.J. Dielman) in 2016. This means that this spring could be important for younger offensive linemen to get experience because they will be starters in 2017. Utah has put a huge emphasis recruiting offensive linemen in the last two recruiting classes. Players like guard Darrin Paulo and tackle Johnny Capra were both heavily recruited in 2015. They both redshirted last season, so this spring will be the first chance fans get to see what these players and other newcomers like guard Jake Grant can do. Paulo got some reps with the second-team offense at left guard in fall camp last year, so he could challenge for some playing time this year and will likely start next year.

I expect Lutui to take the opening at center. The top position battles to watch will be at the tackle positions. Barton, Dielman, and Tevi will all be battling in spring for the two tackle spots. The battle will really heat up in fall when Bolles arrives. I would not be surprised to see Dielman slide inside to right guard with Barton and/or Tevi taking the right tackle spot and Bolles becoming the eventual starter at left tackle. Utah has shown they are not afraid to rotate offensive linemen, so it will be worth watching if Capra, Paulo, or any of the other young offensive linemen can break into the rotation. Expect Utah to try out different combinations of offensive linemen to find the best starting five.