Mountain West Football: Post-Spring Practice Offensive Line Rankings
How do the Mountain West’s offensive line units measure up in this spring practice season?
A lot of big men up front with lots to prove.
Projected starters/depth: Aaron Frost (OT), Joey Capra (OG?), Kai Arneson (C?), Trey Hamilton (OG?), Grant Starck (OT?), Jacob Nunez, Frank Poso
The Wolf Pack got ravaged by departures all over the roster, but the Union could pull itself back together quickly under new offensive line coach Jeff Nady. Frost, at least, provides a reliable anchor who could slide into Jacob Gardner’s position at left tackle while Starck, who served as Gardner’s backup last season, may slot in on the right side.
Capra, meanwhile, arrives from San Diego State with some previous game experience under his belt. There might be anywhere from two to four starting spots up for grabs, though, so this may not be settled for a while.
11. New Mexico
Projected starters/depth: Arrison Cole (OT?), Shancco Matautia (OG?), Collin James (C), Radson Jang (OG), Isaak Gutierrez (OT), Isaiah Sillemon, Jer’Marques Bailey
Much like Nevada, the Lobos are also trying to replace multiple starters but may be in a slightly better position because of the promise flashed by recruits like Cole, Matautia and Sillemon. Neither Jang nor Gutierrez may not have Frost’s ceiling, but combined they give New Mexico a slightly improved starting point from which to build.
Depth chart: Daviyon McDaniel (OT), Preston Nichols (OG), Leif Fautanu (C), Amani Trigg-Wright (OG), Tiger Shanks (OT), Brandon Logan, Will Bonkavich, Anthony Berry
The Rebels improved overall on offense last season, and that includes this unit, but now they head into 2022 having to replace Clayton Bradley, who spent most of the year at left tackle, and Julio Garcia, their best overall athlete and a punishing run blocker. Fautanu and Shanks give UNLV a young foundation, though the former is slightly better than the latter right now, while Trigg-Wright and McDaniel helped to stabilize the shuffle in 2021.
That leaves the grad transfer Nichols, who could hold off competition for the final starting spot and give UNLV a pretty experience unit that simply needs to deliver more consistently in 2022.
Projected starters/depth: Ilm Manning (OT), Micah Vanterpool (OG), Maurice Ta’ala (C?), Solo Vaipulu (OG), Kauka Umiamaka (OT?), Eliki Tanuvasa, Arasi Mose, Sergio Muasau
The Warriors trio of veteran linemen — Manning, Vanterpool, and Vaipulu — will be one of the most seasoned anywhere in the Mountain West headed into 2022, but what will that mean exactly? Those three thrived in the run-and-shoot under Nick Rolovich but were closer to fine under Todd Graham (and this says nothing of the dire circumstances thrust upon Michael Eletise by Graham, who probably would have also continued to contribute had his physical and mental health received greater care).
If new head coach Timmy Chang and offensive line coach Roman Sapolu can help this unit get back to where it was in 2019 and develop some of the next men up like Muasau and Tanuvasa, even just in terms of pass-blocking prowess, Hawaii could surprise.
8. San Jose State
Projected starters/depth: Jamie Navarro (OT), Tyler Ostrom (OG), Scott Breslin (C?), Tyler Stevens (OG), John Weiss (OT?), Jesse Chamberlain, Anthony Pardue, James McNorton
The Spartans’ offensive line wasn’t quite as sharp as they were in the team’s 2020 championship run, but the good news is that they aren’t quite starting over despite some big losses. Losing Akron transfer Bryce Petersen to the portal mere months after picking him up from there is a little concerning, so they’ll need their collective wealth of remaining experience (McNorton is the only player listed here who isn’t a senior or sixth-year player) to help get back to being a sum greater than the individual parts.
7. Colorado State
Projected starters/depth: Jacob Gardner (OT), Grey Davis (OG), Tautai Li’o Marks (C?), Dontae Keys (OG?), Ches Jackson (OT), Dante Bivens, Trevyn Heil, Gage Gaynor
Jay Norvell brought some familiar faces with him from Reno to anchor this unit, but the Rams won’t benefit from quite the same level of continuity as his recent Wolf Pack teams did. Gardner and Jackson seem like safe bets to hold down the tackle spots while Davis, Keys, and Bivens all have starting experience on the interior, so at the very least they appear well equipped to handle any bad injury luck thrown their way.
Projected starters/depth: Carlos Harrison (OT?), Eric Abojei (OG), Latrell Bible (C), Zach Watts (OG), Frank Crum (OT), Nofoafia Tulafono, Marco Machado, Mason Schultz
It’s been a little while since the Cowboys have had to reset up front like this, replacing Keegan Cryder, Logan Harris and Alonzo Velazquez all at once. There are established options to replace most of those holes, chiefly Bible and Watts, but finding a new starter at left tackle will be as important in the long run for this team as finding a new quarterback (even if it isn’t going to receive nearly as much attention).