With the return of several key contributors from 2022 at the offensive line, including All-American guard Christian Haynes, UConn football will once again be looking to this group as a strength of the team heading into the 2023 season.
Among all position groups in football, the offensive line is where continuity is the most important, and UConn has plenty of it. Jim Mora’s squad returns four out of five starters and 3,156 out of a total of 3,897 snaps in 2023, bringing back the core of what was arguably their best position group in 2022.
UConn’s strength on the interior of their offensive line resulted in an effective zone rushing game, ranking No. 42 in the country with 4.7 yards per attempt despite the entire stadium knowing what was going to happen before the ball was snapped. The Huskies ran the ball more often than all but four teams in the country, and all but one non-triple option team.
Though the exact split may differ this year, the run game should be the focus of the offense yet again in 2023, and the Huskies’ superior offensive line should be primed to handle the load. Here’s a look at the projected starters:
Guard - #64 - Christian Haynes - Redshirt Junior
6-foot-3, 313 lbs., 12 starts in 2022
Christian Haynes is the leader of this group. Haynes received AP All-American honors in 2022 and was projected as a mid-round NFL Draft pick before making the decision to return to college. This year, he’s regarded as one of the nation’s top returning interior linemen.
Haynes returns looking to improve his already high draft stock and has been named to the Athlon, Sporting News, and Walter Camp preseason All-American squads, as well as the Outland Trophy watchlist, awarded to the best interior lineman in college football.
Top 10 returning Interior OL for the 2023 CFB season, via @Chad_Maxwick pic.twitter.com/r9FrOQiUcI— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 6, 2023
Guard - #62 - Noel Ofori-Nyadu - Redshirt Senior
6-foot-2, 298 lbs., 12 starts in 2022
Haynes will be joined at guard by another multi-year starter, Noel Ofori-Nyadu. The redshirt senior from Arlington, Texas started eight games in 2021 and expanded on that role the following year, playing every available snap at left guard in 2022 alongside Haynes. Ofori-Nyadu has been a crucial, if underappreciated, member of the UConn line and will look to continue that effort going forward.
Center - #67 - Christopher Fortin - Junior
6-foot-5, 300 lbs., 6 appearances in 2022
UConn’s lone gap to fill on the offensive line comes between the guards. Dartmouth transfer Jake Guidone met and exceeded expectations in the middle of the UConn line, earning a roster spot with the Baltimore Ravens in fall camp.
The Huskies have a few options to replace the former Ivy Leaguer, starting with a big Canadian, Christopher Fortin. The St-Rene, Quebec native filled in for an injured Guidone in four games over the course of the 2022 season. Fortin is able to fill in for multiple positions on the line, including center and either tackle, slotting in as an extra offensive lineman in certain run game formations employed by Charlton. If he isn’t employed as a starting center, expect him to make appearances there.
Center - #51 - Yakiri Walker - Redshirt Sophomore
6-foot-2, 267 lbs., 6 appearances in 2022
If Fortin remains a utility lineman brought in for specialty situations, Yakiri Walker is the favorite tipped to become starting center week in and week out for the Huskies. Walker has a more typical size for an interior lineman and made appearances at center and left tackle in five games during the 2023 season.
Tackle - #71 - Valentin Senn - Redshirt Junior
6-foot-7, 301 lbs., 12 starts in 2022
The international flavor on UConn’s offensive line continues at left tackle with the return of the big Austrian Valentin Senn. Like Ofori-Nyadu, Senn started every game at left tackle and admirably protected Zion Turner’s blind side, allowing just a single sack through his side of the line in 2022, and was an integral people-mover on the left side of the Huskies’ offensive line.
Tackle - #75 - Chase Lundt - Redshirt Junior
6-foot-8, 300 lbs., 12 starts in 2022
After starting 11 games at right tackle in 2022, Lundt continued to feature in the offensive line in every game of the 2023 season. The mammoth Arlington, Texas native allowed just one sack last year, and he’ll continue to be a run-blocking weapon on the right side of the line, especially in the Huskies’ heavy formations.