USU football position previews: Offensive line

<em>This is the first in a series previewing the 2017 Utah State football team’s position groups.</em>

LOGAN – The Aggies return two starters from 2016’s offensive line, but with all the competition happening in fall camp, every starting spot appears to up for grabs.

Utah State lost Austin Albrecht, Jake Simonich and Austin Stephens to graduation, but retained senior tackle Preston Brooksby and junior guard KJ Uluave. Brooksby played in all 12 games last season and started in all but one. Uluave started four games last year.

Two other guys with significant USU experience return. Junior Cody Boyer has played in nine games during the past two years, while Jarom Ioane is anxious to get back on the field after missing last season due to injury. Jake Templeton and Andrew Chen played in a combined four games during 2016.

Ioane said he believes he is coming back better than ever for his senior season, partly because he spent time on the sidelines studying the game and coaching younger players during his injury.

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“It was good for me so I could focus more on the mental side of the game,” he said. “To be a teacher you have to have the mental side of the game down.”

A major offseason storyline was the addition of a bigger-than-usual group of new players in the position group. When offensive coordinator David Yost joined the team in late December, the offensive line was, at first, a concern to him. He said he knew the team had lost significant experience due to graduation, but was pleased when he saw what the coaches had done with recruiting.

Eleven of the new O-linemen haven’t played a snap for the Aggies. Three of the 11 – Demytrick Ali’ifua, Ty Shaw and Sean Taylor – were redshirts on the team last year. Four others joined the team after transferring from another school. Tackle Roman Andrus and guard Moroni Iniguez both came most recently from Snow College, center Quin Ficklin came from BYU and guard Rob Castaneda spent time at both Texas Tech and Ellsworth Community College.

Head coach Matt Wells said Ficklin has increased his strength since arriving at USU, and that the O-line position will be new to Andrus, who last season played defensive tackle at Snow.

“That’s a 270-pound defensive lineman at Snow that came here,” Wells said, “He is now 290 and lost body fat.”

Offensive line coach Steve Farmer said he liked the addition of Iniguez.

“He’s still in the process of learning,” he said “He’s much more comfortable at just playing offensive line than Roman, with Roman coming over from the D-line. However, it’s just him figuring out the offense.”

Wells singled out Ali’ifua, McMoore and Shaw as three redshirt freshmen who were in the top eight of the position group as of the beginning of fall camp. The other new offensive linemen are true freshmen Chandler Dolphin, Alfred Edwards, McCord Meyers and Wyatt O’Banion.

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