It’s not hyperbole to say that Donovan Laie starting at left tackle for the Arizona Wildcats in his first collegiate game was a major surprise.
It wasn’t to Laie, though.
“Coming in, I knew I had a chance because they were graduating three (starters),” said Laie, a 3-star prospect from Oceanside, Calif. who was the No. 93-ranked offensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class. “I had a size advantage so I knew I was going to contribute coming in as a backup or in the starting lineup.”
Laie ended up starting all 12 games for Arizona as a true freshman, subbing at left tackle for a suspended Layth Friekh for the first two contests (and another when Friekh was injured) and playing the rest at right tackle. In 2019 he is projected to be the Wildcats’ starting left tackle, what he says is his natural position.
“I’ve been playing left tackle since I was younger so I feel like I’m stronger on the left side,” he said. “I think transitioning will be easy for me.”
The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Laie is just scratching the surface of his ability, Arizona offensive line coach Kyle DeVan said. And based on how he develops, a long professional career seems very possible.
“All the parameters the NFL sets, he’s got all those,” DeVan said. “I can definitely see him playing on Sundays because he’s going to keep progressing. I’m excited to work with him for the next three years and see where it goes.”
Laie called last season a “learning experience,” with each game and each opponent teaching him something new either mentally or physically.
“I feel like I’m more confident now,” he said. “I move better. Knowing what I have to do, versus last year, I was kind of confused and trying to learn from the older guys.”
Laie was a standout at Oceanside High School in both football and basketball, serving as his team’s starting center. He considers himself one of the best hoops players from the San Diego area and credits that sport for helping him in football.
“Basketball has helped me with the athleticism that I have now,” he said. “I’m quicker than most people my size.
Arizona led the Pac-12 in rushing but Laie called the line’s play only “okay,” saying the unit lacked physicality and leadership. He said the former has been addressed with the arrival of junior college transfers Josh Donovan and Paiton Fears, while redshirt senior Cody Creason has stepped up for the latter.
“If we follow his lead and we all come together we’ll be just fine,” Laie said of Creason. “I think there’s a lot to be excited about.”