Every Monday and Tuesday during the football season, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham fielded questions from reporters. He was asked about most of the players who would become first-team All-Pac-12 selections.
Bradlee Anae. Leki Fotu. Chase Hansen. Jaylon Johnson. Matt Gay. Mitch Wishnowsky. Britain Covey. Jackson Barton.
But what about Jordan Agasiva? The offensive guard’s name may have been mentioned once all season, and only in that case because the media contingent includes a former Utah offensive lineman (ESPN 700′s Kyle Gunther).
That’s not to say Whittingham failed to recognize Agasiva’s value, and the coaches who scouted and played against Utah certainly were aware of him in the all-conference voting process. That’s why Agasiva joined Barton, Utah’s left tackle, to account for one-third of the all-conference line (six players were picked, due to a tie in the voting) in a season when the Utes won their first Pac-12 South championship.
Agasiva’s development in two years as a junior college transfer is credited to line coach Jim Harding. You can argue that’s why Harding deserves a promotion to offensive coordinator or maybe it is the reason to keep him in his current position. Harding had four rookies make NFL opening day rosters in 2017, and he has succeeded again with seniors Barton, Agasiva and Lo Falemaka, who received all-conference honorable mention after missing four games due to injury.
“We knew when we recruited [Agasiva] that he had a ton of potential,” Whittingham said. “Ever since he set foot on campus, his trajectory has just been continually on the rise. Coach Harding did a great job developing him. The bottom line is he had the raw material and the skill set to be a great one.”
Agasiva originally signed with his hometown University of Hawaii, but lacked the academic credentials for enrollment. So he went to Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz. That move became significant and symbolic, for multiple reasons. The University of Arizona overlooked him two years later, and the Wildcats haven’t produced an all-conference lineman since 2008, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Then Pima and other Arizona junior colleges dropping their football teams, so Agasiva may be the Aztecs' last success story.
“Really disappointing that some young guys from high school that didn't have [adequate] grades won't be able to play there,” Agasiva said. “I wouldn't be here without that opportunity.”
With the openings on the Utes' 2017 line, Agasiva immediately became a starter. The adjustment was not easy, though. “It was a struggle at first, learning the playbook — just a different level than junior college,” Agasiva said. “Coach Harding did a great job just teaching me everything, on and off the field.”
His improvement required extra time diagramming defenses, studying film and doing individual drills. Maybe the best measure of Agasiva's value came when he missed three games with injuries in 2017, including the day when Washington State's Hercules Mata'afa recorded three sacks and five tackles for loss in a win over Utah.
Agasiva has stayed healthy, started every game and played consistently this season, lining up next to right tackle Darrin Paulo. “Working with him every day, we just kind of created a bond, a relationship on the field that made me a better player than I was before,” Agasiva said.
Paulo's contribution was to “just give him a little advice here and there,” he said. “He gives me credit, but he's just being humble. We've been working so closely together all the time, I can just see all the progress he made.”
Whittingham labels the the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Agasiva “a prototypical NFL guard, just a road-grader with a lot of physicality to his game.”
And in April, he’ll get an opportunity to become another of Harding’s pro football projects.
After not adding a high school quarterback last week during the early signing period, Utah has received a commitment from a Wisconsin player as a preferred walk-on. That leaves open the possibility of the Utes' signing a scholarship QB in February.
Carter Robinson of Appleton North High School said he was overlooked in northeast Wisconsin during the recruiting process and marketed himself to western schools, with some family ties to the region. The 6-0, 190-pound Robinson passed for 2,197 yards and 17 touchdowns with three interceptions as a senior. “I have been told, and I do believe, I am a scholarship-quality quarterback,” Robinson said.