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

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PROVO — BYU's latest offensive line addition has experienced a lot since serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Philippines; and although none of it has been easy, he's grateful for everything that has led him to his current state.

BYU announced the addition of Austin Leusa, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound transfer from Southern Utah University, on Monday who held offers from the likes of 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 set to arrive at Provo, he couldn't be more grateful for the challenges he's met and for the possibilities in front of him.

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

Blooming late

Leausa attended West Jordan High, where he played football, rugby and baseball during his junior and senior years. Before that he played a variety of sports, including swimming, golf and tennis due to possessing a versatile athletic profile that has aided him in his gridiron development and pursuits.

Following a sort of breakthrough season at West Jordan during his senior season, Leausa received an opportunity to play football for Southern Utah upon completion of 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 big reason for his successful freshman campaign was a big frame that grew at least three inches in length during his mission service.

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

"I thought that it was my time to hang up the cleats and just be done with football," Leausa said. "But talking with coaches after the 2021 season and going into 2022, I hit the (transfer) portal and ended up at Utah State."

Leausa didn't talk much about his 2022 season in Utah State, stating simply that "it didn't work out the way we wanted it to" for himself, but more importantly his young family.

While moving on from football was again an option for Leausa, at the time, he soon received strong encouragement from former teammates to head on back to Southern Utah and reboot his football career.

"I had a couple of buddies at SUU that were still on the team, and they had asked if I would think about coming back," Leausa said. "I told them that I'd love to come back if the coaching staff would allow me. They took some time to think it over, and then allowed me the chance to come back."

Leausa was a big part of Southern Utah's success, and was soon met with a lot of interest upon completion of the 2023 season.

"I started all 11 games last year, and then I felt with the good year that 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 fast after he entered the transfer portal. He and his young family that then included two young daughters were taken aback by both the amount of interest and how fast a furious the recruitment process became.

Leausa described three straight days of rarely, if ever, being off his phone due to receiving calls from would-be suitors at the next collegiate level.

"It was definitely pretty crazy for me — just because I never thought that big-time schools like that 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 do have. It was a very humbling experience."

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

"What me and my wife did is sit down and picked two or three schools that we thought would benefit us on and off the field," Leusa said. "As soon as I got talking with BYU and coach (TJ) Woods — they did a great job of talking me through the steps they would take to not just help me as a football player, but also help my family as well."

The Leausa family received in-home visits from both Baylor and Boise State before taking an official trip to BYU. While on his trip, Leausa forged good relationships with players such as Caleb Etienne, Connor Pay and Joe Brown, but most importantly gained a trust and appreciation for new BYU offensive line TJ Woods.

"The big thing that struck me with coach Woods is he's very upfront," Leausa said. "He's not going to beat around the bush. He's going to tell you like it is, and I really think that's a big stepping stone for me. … And his track record speaks for itself. He's put a lot of guys into the (NFL)."

Set to compete

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

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

As for what type of contribution he'll make, the amount of interest he received while in the transfer portal speaks for itself, regarding his ability to contribute to the BYU offensive line's success.

"They're going to see a guy who really wants to work and work for the team," Leausa said. "I feel that I'm very versatile and I pick up on things very quickly. … I like to play football and I like to play north-and-south. I just like to get grimy and dirty when it comes to the field."

Leausa plans on majoring in political science with the pursuit of an NFL career being a primary goal. If his NFL pursuit doesn't work out, he'd then likely opt to become a firefighter, stating, "I feel that's the best way I can help people."

Criddle's conclusion:

Aaron Roderick stated toward the end of spring ball that BYU's coaching staff would be adding two, and maybe even three, offensive lineman via the transfer portal. This is a position of need. It's a position that needs more proven depth, and Leausa provides just that.

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

Consider Leausa's credentials:

  • He's an experienced collegiate player who proved very adept as a starting guard for Southern Utah last season. Those who have reviewed film of him when BYU matched up against SUU last season observed a lineman who largely stymied the Cougars' edge rushers and whatever else was thrown at him.
  • Leausa is very familiar with BYU's offensive system, having operated under almost the exact system while at SUU. Other Thunderbird transfers on the offensive side of the ball to BYU have been able to advance up on the depth chart more easily due to having a leg up on understanding the offensive calls and system at large.

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

Both Sonny Makisini and Brown both acquitted themselves very well during this past spring practice session. Brown, who only recently returned from two-year missionary service, was mentioned often by the Cougars coaching staff as a standout, and is perhaps set for even greater strides come fall. Makisini has also received positive reviews.

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

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Ben Criddle


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