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2018 (Early) Position Preview – Offensive Line

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Tight Ends PreviewPictured: Members of BYU Offensive Line in 2017 huddle before a play via vanquishthefoe.com

In a previous article, I wrote about what Jeff Grimes would have to do in order to get BYU’s offense back on track. In that article I tried to emphasize how important the running game would be in a scenario where QB play is questionable; specifically I was talking about QB transitions due to injury, but the principle is the same for generally any uncertainty.

A fantastic running game can buoy an offense experiencing a difficult QB situation, which until we learn about the health and capability of Tanner Mangum and/or Beau Hoge, BYU finds itself in. A successful running game begins with an effective offensive line – something Grimes knows a thing or two about – and finishes with an effective running back.

BYU returns every single running back from last year (assuming they all choose to/can return,) and I will go over each of those next week in a weekly (early) position preview, but loses three starting offensive linemen. It was announced on Wednesday 12/27, that former Offensive Line Coach, Mike Empey (pictured below) would not be retained and it is assumed that Ryan Pugh will take over the duties previously assumed by Empey. The offensive line was generally considered the strength of the offense last year, and Empey will be missed. Similar to Tuiaki’s relationship with Sitake, Pugh seems to have a good relationship with new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and certainly has his trust to accomplish Grimes’s vision for the position group.

57bfa4fd01077.imagePictured: Former BYU OL Coach Mike Empey giving players a pep-talk during practice via heraldextra.com

With the early-signing period now over (but recruiting still going till February) we now have a decent idea of who will be competing for playing time on that offensive line.

Returning starters:

LT – Thomas Shoaf (RS JR.) Shoaf played in 11 games as a Freshman in 2016 and started all 13 games in 2017 as the starting LT. Barring injury, Shoaf will be considered a 4 year starter by the time he graduates in 2019. Shoaf was a 3-star recruit out of high school and was also recruited by Ball State, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Ole Miss, Purdue, and Utah.

RT – Austin Hoyt (RS SR.) Hoyt began playing as a Freshman in 2015, where he played 9 games. Since then he has played in every game during his Sophomore and Junior years. Out of high school he was recruited by Air Force, Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, UCLA, Washington, and Washington State.

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Pictured: “BYU offensive lineman Thomas Shoaf (59) blocks UCLA defensive lineman Rick Wade” via sltrib.com

Returning Contributors:

Austin Chambers (RS SO.) Chambers played in 7 games last year and is projected to compete for a starting Guard role in 2018. A 3-star recruit out of high school, Chambers was recruited by Arkansas, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, and Notre Dame.

Keiffer Longson (RS SO.) Last year Longson played in 3 games in 2017 and was rated a 4-star prospect out of high school. He is expected to compete for a starting role, though where exactly is in question. If he were to challenge for a tackle position, it would be between him and an entrenched starter. Most likely, Longson either starts in a Guard position or rotates through. Longson was recruited by Arizona State, Colorado, Florida State, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio State, San Jose State, UCLA, Utah, Utah State, and Washington State.

Chandon Herring (RS SO.) Herring played in every game in 2017 except LSU. He is projected to be the primary backup to the starting Tackles and will see significant playing time as a rotational player. A 3-star prospect out of high school, Herring was also recruited by Air Force, Arizona, Arizona State, San Jose State, and Washington State.

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Pictured: BYU offensive lineman Chandon Herring celebrates after a victory via zimbio.com

Jacob Jimenez (RS JR – Major Injury.) Jimenez missed significant playing time in 2017 due to injury, and will likely receive a medical redshirt upon his return. In both 2015 and 2016 Jimenez saw time as a rotational player, playing in a total of 6 games. If healthy, Jimenez will compete to start at Center. Out of high school, Jimenez was recruited by Nevada, North Texas, Oregon State, and UTEP.

LeRoy Sitake-Tanoai (RS JR.) The half-brother of head coach Kalani Sitake, last year Sitake-Tanoai saw action in 3 games. He’ll compete for a Guard position in 2018. Out of high school he was recruited by Hawaii, Nebraska, UCLA, Utah, and Washington.

Addison Pulsipher (RS JR.) The brother of linebacker Adam Pulsipher, Addison played in only 1 game in 2017. Pulsipher projects to be a backup at a Guard position. A 3-star prospect out of high school, Pulsipher was also recruited by Colorado State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, and Utah.

Taipe Vaka (SR.) A Junior-College transfer, Vaka is projected to be a backup Tackle. Vaka was recruited by Arizona, Cincinnati, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa State, New Mexico, Oregon, San Diego State, UCF, and Washington State.

Brady Christensen (RS FR.) Targeted by Ed Lamb, Christensen redshirted last year. He projects as a backup Tackle. Out of high school he was recruited by Air Force, Southern Utah, and Weber State.

598be4daaf68d.imagePictured: BYU defensive lineman, Motekiai Langi and offensive lineman LeRoy Sitake-Tanoai laugh together during a practice via heraldextra.com

New Faces:

Tristen Hoge (RS JR – Transfer.) Hoge played in 6 games for the Notre Dame Irish in 2016 before sitting out 2017 due to transfer rules. The cousin of BYU QB Beau Hoge, Tristen projects to compete for a starting role at either Guard or Center. Other than Notre Dame, Hoge was recruited out of high school by Florida, Florida State, Michigan State, North Carolina, Oregon, Oregon State, Penn State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, and Washington State.

James Empey (RS FR – RM Transfer.) Son of recently released Offensive Line Coach Mike Empey, James is a one-time Utah commitment. He redshirted last year and is expected to either compete for the starting Center role, replacing All-American Tejan Koroma (who started as a Freshman, as well) or a Guard position. Other than Utah, Empey was also recruited by Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State.

For more information about the newest recruits, I encourage you to visit:

http://bluecougarfootball.blogspot.com/2017/12/byu-announces-first-13-members-of-2018.html

…which has a comprehensive list of each. They are as follows:

JT Gentry (RM)

Clark Barrington (RM)

Harris LaChance (RM-Transfer.) Transferring from Utah State. Also recruited by TCU, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Tysen Lewis. 2-star prospect. Also recruited by UCLA.

Jacob Smith. Also recruited by Arkansas, LSU, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Campbell Barrington. 3-star prospect. Also recruited by Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, and Washington State.

Connor Pay. 3-star prospect.

6_5707437Pictured: Former Notre Dame player, Tristen Hoge running onto the practice field with teammates via 247sports.com

Key Loses:

Keyan Norman (G)

Tuni Kanuch (G)

Tejan Koroma (C)

Notes:

  • Ului Lapuaho is not currently listed on the roster.
  • JJ Nwigwe could transition back to offensive line, but was used primarily as a blocking TE in 2017.
  • Despite the release of Mike Empey as offensive line coach, there is no official expectations for his son, James Empey, to transfer back to Utah where he was originally committed. Still, his commitment to the team is something to keep an eye on this off-season.

Every single offensive line position will be up for grabs in 2018. Even with returning starters Shoaf and Hoyt, there’s significant talent and decent experience behind them to challenge for playing time. With all the experience and talent already on the roster, I would be surprised if any new signee is able to crack the starting depth chart. While we can hope for a pleasant surprise, and there’s always the possibility of a Freshman getting starting time due to injury, I instead anticipate that those who do not serve missions (or at least not right away, or are already returned, etc.) will be redshirted or spend time in backup roles at best.

NCAA Football: Utah at Brigham YoungPictured: Former Former BYU players line up before a play against in-state rival Utah in 2015 via USA Today

Projected depth chart: (compare to https://www.loyalcougars.com/football-roster/depth-chart/)

LT – 1. Thomas Shoaf  – 2. Chandon Herring – 3. Taipe Vaka

LG – 1. Austin Chambers – 2. LeRoy Sitake-Tanoai

C – 1. James Empey or Tristen Hoge – 2. Jacob Jimenez

RG – 1. James Empey or Tristen Hoge – 2. Addison Pulsipher

RT – 1. Austin Hoyt – 2. Keiffer Longson – 3. Brady Christensen

 

Offensive Previews:
Running Backs Preview
Tight Ends Preview
Wide Receivers Preview
Quarterbacks Preview

Defensive Previews:
Defensive Line Preview
Linebackers Preview
Cornerbacks Preview
Safeties Preview

See Also:

Special Teams Preview

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