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BYU football: Who will be the starters along the offensive line in 2024?

BYU football: Who will be the starters along the offensive line in 2024?

 


PROVO BYU's newest offensive lineman has been through a lot since serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Philippines; and while it hasn't all been easy, he is grateful for everything that has led him to his current state.

BYU announced Monday the addition of Austin Leusa, a 6-foot-1, 310-pound transfer from Southern Utah University who had offers from Baylor, Boise State and Houston, among others, before deciding to transfer to BYU.

Leausa's path to BYU isn't typical, but now that he's about to arrive at Provo, he couldn't be more grateful for the challenges he's faced and the opportunities ahead.

“It's definitely been a process, but I feel very honored and blessed to be a part of BYU and I'm just excited to get this thing going,” Leausa said in an interview on ESPN 960.

Late flowering

Leausa attended West Jordan High, where he played football, rugby and baseball during his junior and senior years. Previously, he played a variety of sports, including swimming, golf and tennis, as he possessed a versatile athletic profile that has aided his development and pursuits on the football field.

After a breakout season of sorts at West Jordan during his senior season, Leausa was given the opportunity to play football for Southern Utah after completing his church mission.

Leausa had to sit out a season due to the COVID-19 pandemic before completing a successful 2021 season that included play in both the spring and fall. A major reason for his successful freshman campaign was a large frame that grew at least two inches longer during his missionary service.

But life comes at you fast, and with the birth of his daughter, Leausa was forced to make a difficult decision.

“I thought it was my time to hang up the boots and just be done with football,” Leausa said. “But when I was talking to coaches after the 2021 and 2022 seasons, I entered the (transfer) portal and ended up at Utah State.”

Leausa didn't talk much about his 2022 season at Utah State, simply saying that “it didn't work out the way we wanted” for himself, but more importantly, for his young family.

Although leaving football was once again an option for Leausa, he quickly received strong encouragement from former teammates at the time to return to Southern Utah and restart his football career.

“I had some friends at SUU who were still on the team, and they had asked if I would think about coming back,” Leausa said. “I told them I would like to come back if the coaching staff would let me. They took the time to think about it and then gave me the opportunity to come back.”

Leausa played a major role in Southern Utah's success and quickly gained a lot of interest after the 2023 season.

“Last year I started all 11 games, and then with the good year I felt I had what I wanted to fulfill the dream I had as a kid to play Power Five football,” Leausa said.

Why BYU?

The offers for Leausa's services came soon after he entered the transfer portal. He and his young family, which at the time included two young daughters, were surprised by both the amount of interest and the speed with which the recruitment process moved.

Leausa described three consecutive days in which he was rarely, if ever, off his phone as he received calls from potential suitors at the next collegiate level.

“It was definitely pretty crazy for me just because I never thought such big schools would ever reach out to me,” Leausa said. “But at the end of the day, I knew what I brought to the table, and after talking to the coaches at all the different schools, it was an opportunity for me to take a step back and realize the potential that I It was a very humbling experience.”

Leausa ultimately settled on three potential suitors; BYU, Boise State and Baylor.

“What me and my wife did is we sat down and picked two or three schools that we thought would benefit us both on and off the field,” Leusa said. “As soon as I started talking to BYU and coach (TJ) Woods, they did a great job of walking me through the steps they would take to help not only me as a football player, but my family as well.”

The Leausa family received home visits from both Baylor and Boise State before making an official trip to BYU. During his journey, Leausa forged strong relationships with players like Caleb Etienne, Connor Pay and Joe Brown, but most importantly he gained trust and appreciation for new BYU offensive lineman TJ Woods.

“The biggest thing I noticed about Coach Woods is that he is very outspoken,” Leausa said. “He's not going to beat around the bush. He's going to tell you like it is, and I really think this is a big stepping stone for me. And his record speaks for itself. He's put a lot of guys in the (NFL). .”

Ready to compete

As with most additions to the transfer portal, Leausa is expected to compete for a starting spot immediately, with the left guard position being the likely specific position he will see reps at.

“They're definitely leaning toward guard, but if the coaching staff wants me to play tackle, I'll do it for them,” said Leausa, who played the tackle position in high school. “Whatever I can do to help the team win, that's what I'll do.”

As for the type of contribution he will make, the amount of interest he received while in the transfer portal speaks for itself in terms of his ability to contribute to the success of the BYU offensive line.

“They're going to see a guy who really wants to work and wants to work for the team,” Leausa said. “I feel like I'm very versatile and I pick things up very quickly. I love playing football and playing north-south. I just love getting down and dirty when it comes to the field.”

Leausa plans to major in political science, with pursuing an NFL career a primary goal. If his NFL pursuit doesn't work out, he'd probably choose to become a firefighter, saying, “I think this is the best way to help people.”

Criddle's conclusion:

Aaron Roderick stated near the end of spring ball that BYU's coaching staff would add two and perhaps even three offensive linemen through the transfer portal. This is a position of need. It's a position that needs more proven depth, and Leausa offers just that.

Brayden Keim, Etienne, Pay and Weylin Lapuaho are all projected starters returning next season to fill four of the five offensive lines. Austin Leausa could very well become the Cougars' fifth starter at right guard when the team kicks off the 2024 season.

Consider Leausa's credentials:

  • He is an experienced collegiate player who proved very adept as the starting guard for Southern Utah last season. Those who reviewed film of him when BYU played SUU last season observed a lineman who largely stymied the Cougars' edge rushers and anything else thrown at him.
  • Leausa is very familiar with BYU's offensive system, having operated under much the same system at SUU. Other Thunderbird transfers on the offensive side of the ball to BYU had an easier time moving up the depth chart because they had an advantage in understanding the offensive calls and the system in general.

But before you pencil in Leausa at the open right guard position, consider the competition.

Both Sonny Makisini and Brown acquitted themselves very well this past spring training. Brown, who only recently returned from a two-year missionary stint, was often cited as a standout by the Cougars coaching staff and may be ready for even bigger steps in the fall. Makisini has also received positive reviews.

All three players should provide healthy and productive competition for the starting spot this fall, which is exactly what you want at each position. Legitimate competition largely raises the level of play and focus of everyone involved, and Leausa's addition to the competition at right guard will only work to improve the overall play of the position, even if he doesn't ultimately win the starting nod.

Sources

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