Vega Ioane (OL, 6’4” 280, Graham-Kapowsin, WA)
Continuing with my series breaking down the 2022 in-state offensive line recruiting class, we have Vega Ioane. Ioane has elite athletic traits as a solid all-around OL prospect that plays OT in HS. After watching his tape, I was left with the impression that he was a talented, well-rounded athlete without a clear limiting trait. Listed at a stout 6-4 and 280 lbs, with more recent listings/posts having him up to 6-5.5 and 310 lbs, Ioane has clear P5 OL size, and he carries his weight really well. Based on what his sophomore tape, an extra inch or two of growth and ~30 additional pounds should still look relatively lean on his lanky frame. It also shouldn’t hinder the basketball-type athleticism that he’s flashed several times on tape. My first thought was that we were looking at him at iOL based on his height listing, but this growth should earn him a longer look on the perimeter at OT.
I have operated on the belief that OT is a hard enough position to fill that you want to try as many guys at the position as possible, and a good OL coach should be able to turn an average OT prospect into excellent iOL. Guys like Luke Wattenberg, Matteo Mele, and Henry Bainivalu have all taken the OT-to-iOL route, and Huff’s preference for cross-training makes me think that there are many others who have done the same behind the scenes (*cough* Fautanu *cough*).
Wattenberg and Bainivalu are good comparison from a playing-style perspective and can illustrate Ioane’s potential even if he can’t stick at OT (I still think he could). Like Ioane, both were another former HS OTs who had the athleticism to be scheme versatile and could execute a variety of blocks at a high level in HS (pulling, traps, screens, reach blocks, etc.). However, neither were considered a maulers in the run game and could be overwhelmed by more powerful DTs. Despite this, all both have become solid contributors in the run game through our use of wide/stretch zone and pulling plays. Ioane should arrive in college college with a little more functional strength than Wattenberg, but he doesn’t have overwhelming lower body drive or explosive pop, so having the athleticism and experience to execute these more athletic types of blocks is important. Ioane’s potential in a wide/stretch zone scheme is especially intriguing as he’s shown the consistent ability to win sealing position in the run game when most big guys have to resort to attempts at driving opponents out of the play.
In pass protection, Ioane doesn’t have major holes in his technique (relative to most sophomores). He has decently active feet and violent hands, but he’ll need to keep his feet more consistently active to avoid getting beat by speed rushers. At times he can look a bit stiff and mechanical in his pass protection technique, and at other times he abandons his technique but looks very natural engaging and neutralizing rushers. It’s a bit like QBs and their throwing motions. A motion with every coaching point dialed in can still look clunky if it doesn’t work with natural mechanics, and repetition helps to bridge the gap and smooth it over. Ioane will have to work through those reps to incorporate those techniques cohesively into his pass protection and to be comfortable relying on them on the field.
Obviously, there is still plenty of time for Ioane to continue growing and developing, but I think he has the tools to be an above average multi-year starter. It might be a reach, but he could be an all-conference talent.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the UWDP Recruiting Notebook series in the stream below, and feel free to leave a comment with suggestions of recruits you’d like to see next in the series.