Predicting The Depth Chart: 2015 BYU Offensive Line

We continue our early predictions of what BYU’s depth chart will look like when the Cougars take on Nebraska in about six months. We’ve already previewed quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers so today we take a look in the trenches and preview the 2015 BYU offensive line.

Before getting into the specifics of names and players I just want to point out how much better the starting five offensive linemen will be than the linemen of recent years. There is size, athleticism, nasty and all of the other things that you want out of the big guys up front. Outside of those top five, however, there is a whole lot of unknown. There are freshman will little experience but high potential and that’s about it. An injury or two along the offensive line early in the season or during Fall Camp could prove to be devastating for BYU. So let’s take a look:

Oct 3, 2014; Provo, UT, USA; Brigham Young Cougars offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch (78) enters the field prior to the game against the Utah State Aggies at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Utah State won 35-20. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Starters:

Left Tackle: Ryker Matthews

Matthews finally appears to be healthy. Early in his BYU career, Matthews was clearly one of the best offensive linemen on the team and looked to be the future of the left tackle position for four straight years. Injuries have plagued Matthews so far in his career, but he looks as healthy as he’s ever been and I expect him to have the impact in his senior season that many hoped he would have all along. If he can stay healthy then I think he’s BYU’s best lineman.

Left Guard: Kyle Johnson

Johnson has quietly solidified himself as one of the most consistent and steady players along the offensive line for BYU. He started games as a redshirt freshman in 2013 and continued that momentum in 2014 as he quietly was entrenched as a starter all season long. Johnson is just a good football player. I expect that he will be the same steady and consistent player in his junior season. 

Center: Tejan Koroma

Koroma burst onto the scene as a true freshman. He earned respect from coaches and players in the locker room early on as he established himself as one of the strongest players on the team in practices. His play on the field eventually made the coaches decision to name the true freshman the full-time starter really easy. He won Freshman All-American honors from multiple different sources at the end of the season. Koroma truly was a gem in the 2014 recruiting class. He continues to grow and he’ll continue to learn more about the center position as he gets older. There is no reason to think he won’t be very successful again as a sophomore.

Right Guard: Tuni Kanuch

The one-time defensive tackle turned offensive lineman will have the opportunity to lock down a starting spot as an interior lineman this season. Kanuch is big and strong but does not have the quickness to be an offensive tackle. That’s okay because, obviously, the offensive line is more than just tackles. I think that Kanuch has all of the tools to be a successful guard this season. If he stays healthy then this is Kanuch’s spot to lose.

Right Tackle: Ului Lapuaho

Lapuaho eats horse meat. I don’t know why but I think that all BYU linemen should eat horse meat. There is something about a big guy that’s willing to chow down on some horse that is intimidating.

Okay, horse meat has nothing to do with the reasons that Lapuaho is a great lineman for BYU. It has more to do with his 6’7″ 335 lb. frame that makes him a good lineman. He had his ups and downs as a freshman last year but he showed a lot of the potential that had coaches raving about him as he returned home from his mission. With a full offseason under his belt I think that he will take a big step forward this year. He’s no longer working to lose his mission legs and we will see the difference against Nebraska.

The Backups

It’s hard to say what back ups are going to play what position. BYU does not have enough capable backups to be able to identify one individual player to be a backup for each of the five positions. I think that there are a lot of guys that have talent and potential but there isn’t much experience outside of the starting five linemen.

Terrance Aletto announced that he would be graduating this Spring and moving on from football. Good for him but that’s bad news for BYU. In all likelihood, Aletto wasn’t a starter this season but you could have penciled him in as the primary backup for each of the three interior line positions. He will be missed.

Brayden Kearsley transferred to Oregon State. He’s been vocal on Twitter since his transfer that BYU wasn’t the best fit for him. Assuming that’s the case (and we don’t have any reason to assume that what he’s saying isn’t true) then we wish the talented linemen the best of luck. If he was transferring due to playing time, however, then I wish he would have taken a look at the roster for this year. Kearsley likely would have found his way into the starting lineup somehow but even if he was the “Sixth man” he still would have seen a whole lot of playing time this year. He didn’t have as much impact during his first two seasons as BYU fans hoped  he would, but he is a very good player and could have played a big role in the next two seasons. 

That’s enough about the guys that won’t be here. Let’s look at the guys that will be in uniform this fall.

Brad Wilcox: Wilcox is the favorite to be that “sixth man” linemen. He played in every game as a freshman and likely will do the same as a sophomore. He’s the only backup lineman with meaningful experience. As long as BYU doesn’t lose more than one lineman in the starting lineup then I would feel fairly comfortable with Wilcox. But, as we all know, BYU needs more the six guys.

Manu Mulitalo: Mulitalo has battled his weight issues throughout his BYU career. He’s a big dude. He’s got potential and if he can get his weight down to a weight that he’s able to effectively move then he could make an impact. He will have some work to do.

Brian Rawlinson: Rawlinson will be a sophomore. He didn’t make an impact as a freshman and unless he’s significantly stronger this year then I don’t think he’ll be an impact player this year either. He’ll have a lot of opportunities in the Spring and Fall to show that he’s ready to take on a bigger role.

Austin Hoyt: Hoyt is a little bit of a wild card. He returns from his mission this summer and will have some time to get rid of his mission legs. He was a basketball player and a highly rated defensive end in high school. He’s a great athlete and could work his way into a big role for BYU this year. By the time his football career is over I think he’ll be a starter. Cross your fingers we see flashes of that potential this year.

JJ Nwigwe: Of all the freshmen offensive linemen in the 2015 recruiting class I think that Nwigwe has the highest ceiling. He had offers from Cal, Kansas and Nevada among others. He’s got the frame that looks like he could quickly put on muscle given the resources of a D1 football program. He’s built a lot of like Tejan Koroma. He’ll have a shot to get some backup reps at the tackle positions.

Jacob Jimenez: Jimenez is the perfect fit this year. He’s as versatile of a lineman that you will find. He played center, guard, tackle and even some long snapper in high school. I don’t think that he will compete for a starting position this year but as he grows and develops as a player he could play anywhere along the offensive line.

Demetrius Davis: Davis was a surprise commit on Signing Day. His only other offer was from Southern Utah University but when BYU target Zach Hoyt committed to Virginia Tech over BYU the coaches quickly offered Davis. Frankly, I think Davis has a higher ceiling than Hoyt did so this is a good thing for BYU. Unfortunately, Davis likely won’t contribute this year. He needs a year or two to develop before he can be counted on to play a big role.

Parker Dawe: Dawe is big and strong. He will get some reps in Spring and Summer and be given the opportunity to earn some playing time. I don’t think you want to count on Dawe for a significant role today but he has the tools and if he can put them together he can be a guy that could push for a spot in the two-deep.

Oct 3, 2014; Provo, UT, USA; Brigham Young Cougars assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Robert Anae enters the field prior to the game against the Utah State Aggies at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Utah State won 35-20. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Summary

This team has a very solid five linemen and two or three backup linemen that fans should feel comfortable counting on. Guys like Wilcox, Hoyt and Nwigwe are young and still developing as football players. Each of them will need to make strides leading up to September but I’m confident that they will. If they don’t develop then there are major concerns about depth going into the season.