I got an offensive lineman to keep an eye on this year. Sioeli Fakalata will be a starter at right guard - an intriguing move for a player that has shown flashes in the past.
Fakalata was a defensive tackle his freshman and sophomore years and actually played the position well. He's very athletic for a big man, standing at 6-foot-3, 321 pounds. Two years ago, Fakalata played in all 13 games for the Aggies, making 20 tackles - three for a loss - and also recording two sacks. Some would say 20 tackles isn't a lot. For a defensive tackle, playing in a 3-4 defense - which is what they ran under Woody Widenhofer - 20 tackles, for someone who wasn't even a consistent starter, is a very fair number. At that position, you can make one tackle all game but still disrupt the offense consistently. We won't say Fakalata was the second coming of Casey Hampton - the Aggie defense was miserable with or without him the past three years - but he showed ability as a big, athletic player in the trenches. Last season he sat out with an injured shoulder.
So, now they moved him to offense. I think this is a move that could pay dividends. Frankly, the team could probably need him on the defensive line as is. But this is a unit that is undersized on the offensive front. Go ahead, get on me for saying that you need some 300-plus pounders on the offensive line. Guess what? You do. You need some hogs who are gonna push the pile. Fakalata will bring that to the interior - or at least he should at 6-3, 320. A team that runs the ball, you want some bulldozers. Hopefully, Fakalata can bring a little bulldozing mentality to the a unit that is changing its personality.
Speaking of which, I spoke to Michael Grady on Tuesday night. Mike will start at center for the Aggies this year after playing tackle and center last season while the unit was ravaged by injury. He will enter camp as the team's starting center.
"It's gonna help out a lot," Grady said of the playing time he got last season. "I know what to expect, not only from myself but from the competition too. Mentally, I'm a lot more ready to go."
I asked Grady about a team changing offensive philosophies and how that effects the offensive line.
"As a unit, we can do it," Grady said. "We can run the ball. It's kind of an old-fashioned style of football."