2022 players not returning: Weylin Lapuaho (Transferred to byu), Austin Leausa (Left Team), Jacob South (Graduation)
2023 post-spring ball attrition: Jack Radford (Injury Retirement)
Returning players: Wyatt Bowles, Wade Meacham, Sione (Tavo) Motu’apuaka, Jackson Owens, Adam Pond
New Faces in 2023:
Taliafi Ta’ala 6’7″ 280 (247 3*) – Alta HS, UT
2022 (Sr.) Stats: Started all 12 games on the offensive line
2021 (Jr.) Stats: Started all 11 games on the offensive line
2020 (So.) Stats: Started all 12 games on the offensive line
2019 (Fr.) Stats: Played all 10 games on the offensive line
Offers from: Arizona, Arizona St, byu, Michigan, Michigan St, Oregon St, USC, utah
Primary Recruiter: DJ Tialavea, Micah James, Michael Gibbs
Regarding the NCAA-mandated eligibility freeze from the 2020 season, what I’ve learned is the player’s eligibility will continue to accrue. Once the player reaches his 4th or 5th season, depending on if the player uses a redshirt season, the player will have the option to return to school for a 5th or 6th season and continue playing one more season. The player will then move from being listed as a senior (Sr.) to a graduate senior (Gr-Sr.)
After missing parts of several seasons due to disappointing injury, graduate senior Wyatt Bowles is set to make a run at the starting gig in 2023. As a senior in 2022, Bowles saw action in all 13 games, grading out at 88%. As a junior in 2021, Bowles saw action in 11 of 13 games. As a sophomore in 2020, Bowles did not see any action. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, he was injured early in fall camp and missed the entire season. As a true freshman in 2018, he took 47 snaps while playing in the maximum 4 games allowed and still being able to receive a redshirt season. The Aggies landed Bowles on signing day, despite a late push from the PAC-12’s Oregon State. He has shown a lot of upside during his development. However, he needs to stay healthy to get on the field and show what he can do and last season was a step in the right direction. He has a passion for the game and it translates to the field. He has good footwork and uses that to his advantage to keep opposing defenders from getting the edge on him. He is athletic and has a high football IQ and that gives him the flexibility and the understanding of the playbook to play anywhere from tackle to center.
Graduate senior Wade Meacham is locked in a battle for the top spot on the depth chart. As a senior in 2022, Meacham started all 13 games and graded out at a solid 88%. As a junior in 2021, he saw action in all 14 games and graded out at 76%. As a sophomore in 2020, Meacham saw action in 4 of 6 games. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Meacham saw action in 1 game and played in 15 snaps. As a true freshman in 2018, he took 68 snaps while playing in the maximum 4 games and was still able to receive a redshirt season. He is an athletic offensive lineman that runs well out in space. The coaching staff believes he has the potential to be a very productive and long offensive lineman who will use his tremendous athletic ability to get after opposing defensive players. A huge plus is his ability to play both guard and tackle and that shows his tremendous versatility. His experience fits well with a veteran offensive line. He is a leader in the locker room in every sense of the word.
True freshman Taliafi Ta’ala will enter fall camp as one of the highest-rated Aggie recruits ever. Ta’ala chose to become an Aggie over offers from Arizona, Arizona State, byu, Michigan, Michigan State, Oregon State, USC, and utah. As a senior at Alta High (UT) in 2022, Ta’ala started all 12 games on the offensive line and earned a first-team all-state selection. As a junior in 2021, he started all 11 games on the offensive line and earned a first-team all-region nod. As a sophomore in 2020, he started all 12 games on the offensive line. As a freshman in 2019, he got his first taste of varsity action by playing in all 10 games on the offensive line. Ta’ala has mammoth size but he is athletic enough to move around to make his blocks. His good footwork helps him take good angles to prevent defenders from speed-rushing him. He maintains leverage to gain the advantage against defenders and uses that to drive opposing defenders into the turf. He does a great job staying low to use his whole body. Ta’ala has the raw talent to become a mainstay on the Aggie offensive line for years to come.
Adding depth to the position will be redshirt freshman preferred walk-on, Adam Pond. Pond spent his 2022 true freshman season as a redshirt while participating on the Aggie practice squad. Pond joins the Aggies last summer after serving an LDS Church mission. Following the completion of his high school career, he originally signed with Southern Utah University. As a senior at Skyridge High (UT) in 2019, Pond was a starter on the offensive line in all 10 games. As a junior in 2018, he was a starter on the offensive line in all 13 games. As a sophomore in 2017, he was a starter on the offensive line in all 14 games. Pond is an athletic big man out on the field. He is very mobile and that allows him to keep himself upright and kick out opposing edge rushers. He isn’t shy about throwing would-be defenders to the ground if they try to engage him. His mobility lets him be used to pull from one side to the other and lead a sweep. He has a mean streak that will serve him well at the collegiate level.
Redshirt freshman Sione “Tavo” Motu’apuaka had a huge spring ball session and might find himself in a starting role at one of the guard spots. Motu’apuaka spent his 2022 true freshman season as a redshirt while participating on the Aggie practice squad. Tavo is the younger brother of Aggie defensive tackle Hale Motu’apuaka. As a senior at Mililani High (HI) in 2021, he was a starter on the offensive line in all 7 games. As a junior in 2020, he has his season canceled due to covid. As a sophomore in 2019, he was a starter on the offensive line in all 9 games. He was originally committed to the university of utah but as the early signing period neared he chose to flip his commitment to the Aggies. Tavo is a very physical player who delivers menacing hits on opposing defenders who attempt to get by him. He explodes out of his crouch once the ball is snapped and immediately gets into position to execute his assignment. He does a good job maintaining a low center of gravity. He is a good athlete and very mobile for a player of his size. He is versatile enough to play at multiple spots along the line.
After battling a series of injuries for a couple of years, senior Jackson Owens finally left spring ball healthy and appears ready to take a spot in the two-deep. Due to the COVID NCAA eligibility extension, Owens has one more season of eligibility beyond 2023 remaining. As a junior in 2022, Owens missed the entire season with an injury. As a sophomore in 2021, Owens saw action in 3 games. As a redshirt freshman in 2020, Owens saw action in 4 of 6 games. As a true freshman in 2019, he played in 30 snaps and recorded 1 knockdown block while playing in 3 games and remaining eligible to receive a redshirt season. Owens was a road-grading offensive lineman for the vaunted East rushing attack that chewed opponents up. He is a good athlete that also participated in several track events in high school. He gets a great push at the line of scrimmage when opening holes for run plays. He stays low despite his height and uses both his upper and lower body very well. He is already solid as a run-blocking guard and will likely develop into a well-rounded offensive lineman.
Junior college transfer sophomore Aloali’i Maui will join the Aggies in time for summer workouts. Maui was a full-qualifier out of high school, meaning he will have four years to complete his final three seasons of eligibility. As a true freshman at the New Mexico Military Institute (NM) in 2022, he was a starter on the offensive line in all 12 games. Maui has plenty of strength and he uses that to stand opposing pass rushers straight up and keep them there. He does have the nastiness to finish his blocks with a vicious pancake block. He is also clever enough to use an opposing defender’s weight against him and push him sideways or straight into the ground. He can play both right and left guard.
PROJECTED 2023 PRESEASON DEPTH CHART
60 Wyatt Bowles (6-5, 290, Gr-Sr., 2L, 3*)
79 Wade Meacham (6-5, 310, Gr-Sr., 2L, 3*)
00 Taliafi Ta’ala (6-7, 280, Fr., HS, 3*)
67 Adam Pond (6-5, 245, RsFr., RS, 2*)
65 Sione (Tavo) Motu’apuaka (6-5, 280, RsFr., RS, 3*)
76 Jackson Owens (6-5, 325, Sr*., 1L, 3*)
00 Aloali’i Maui (6-2, 295, So., JC, NR)
Coming up on Friday: Center