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Utah Football Returns Veteran Group On Offensive Line

Utah Utes offensive lineman Nick Ford (55) before the Pac-12 Football Championship Game between the Oregon Ducks and the Utah Utes at Levi's Stadium on December 6, 2019 in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – One of the more experienced units on a very young Utah football team is the offensive line.

Utah returns four of the five starters from last year and have a lot of versatility on the offensive line.

The Utes lost All-Pac-12 left tackle Darrin Paulo to graduation. Paulo signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent.

The Crimson Corner is previewing each position group leading up to the 2020 college football season. We continue with the offensive line.

Returning Experience

Utah has three offensive linemen entering their senior seasons with one expected to be a starter.

Orlando Umana will be a senior this season after a lot of success at Utah on the offensive line. He is a versatile lineman that can also play guard. His experience at Utah includes playing all 13 games on special teams and three games on the o-line in 2017 as a freshman. Umana played in all 14 games in 2018, four at left guard and nine at center. Last season as a Pac-12 honorable mention, Umana started all 12 games at center while missing two contests due to injury. He is one of two offensive linemen that will be expected to be leaders and have an outstanding season.

Nick Ford is the other lineman who will be expected to lead a rising group of talent on the offensive line for Utah. After using his redshirt in 2017, Ford played in the first 11 games with seven starts, six at left guard and one at right tackle. Last season, he started all 14 games. He was the starting right tackle in the opener against BYU and moved over to right guard for the last 13 games. Ford was named All-Conference honorable mention. In the 2020 preseason, many are looking past his talent and versatility to basically play every position on the offensive line. A positive note for Ford is that he has two years of eligibility remaining.

Braeden Daniels enters his sophomore season with plenty of experience already under his belt. After redshirting as a freshman in 2018, Daniels started all 14 games for the Utes at left guard. Daniels can play either guard position, providing options for Jim Harding and the Utes.

Simi Moala started at right tackle in 12 games while playing in all 14 contests last season as a redshirt freshman. Moala was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention. He is expected to continue his success at right tackle. Moala played a major role in Utah’s offensive turnaround against Washington when he entered the game late in the first quarter.

Johnny Maea shared reps at right guard last season as a freshman with Paul Toala. He started at right guard against BYU while also participating in nine games. The East High School grad will be a crucial piece to the depth of Utah’s offensive line.

Bamidele Olaseni played in two games last season including a start against Washington. The JUCO transfer will look to have a big impact at one of the tackle positions in the fall as a senior.

London Bartholomew spent time on the scout team and was a walk-on until he was recently awarded a scholarship. Last season, “Bart” played in two games against Idaho State and Colorado.

Paul Maile utilized his redshirt as a freshman in 2018 while playing in two games. Last season, Maile saw action in eight games for the Utes.

The Utes have a ton of young talent that saw the field in a few games while using their redshirt. Those players include Marist Talavou, Falcon Kaumatule, Satoa Laumea, Keaton Bills and Luke Felix-Fualalo.

Big Shoes To Fill

Darrin Paulo was a regular starter on the offensive line in 2018 and 2019. He started in 13 games at right tackle in 2018 and started at left tackle in all 14 games last season. Paulo was named first team All-Pac-12.

Kyle Lanterman was once a walk-on before earning a scholarship before his senior season. He played in eight games and seven contests on the offensive line.

Alex Locklear was a graduate transfer from Marshall. In his one year of eligibility, Locklear played in seven games on the offensive line in 2019.

Paul Toala played seven games on the o-line in 2017 where he was awarded a scholarship. In 2018, he played in four games on the offensive line before being a co-starter with Johnny Maea at right guard last season. Toala played in nine games, eight of which were on the offensive line. He started at center against Northern Illinois and Idaho State.

Newcomers

Alex Harrison will bring his 6’4, 310-pound frame to Utah and will be ready to compete for reps on the offensive line. He was a three-star recruit from Viewmont High School. Harrison was the eighth ranked player in the state of Utah.

Hunter Lotulelei will enter his freshman season with the Utes after returning from a two-year church mission. Lotulelei is 6’3, 334-pounds from Highland High School where he was first-team All-State.

Jaren Kump signed with Utah in 2017 when he served a two-year church mission. Now, he returns and is ready to compete for a spot on a young offensive line group that is filled with talented players. In 2017, Kump was ranked No. 7 in the state of Utah as a three-star recruit.

Solatoa Moea’i will not enroll at Utah and will serve a two-year church mission before joining the Utes. He was a three-star prospect and was the No. 5 recruit out of Hawai’i.

Starter Predictions

I see two scenarios of how this will play out for Utah’s starters on the offensive line. Regardless of scenario, I think Nick Ford will be the starting left tackle, Orlando Umana will start at center and Simi Moala at right tackle. The first scenario that I see is Keaton Bills starting at left guard and Braeden Daniels at right guard.

Another option is keeping Daniels at right guard and move Johnny Maea to left guard or swap Maea and Daniels. Either way, this unit is expected to have a big year and a huge impact on Utah’s offensive success.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.