BYU Freshman O-Linemen Earn Key Roles
Nothing speaks to the futility of the play of BYU’s offensive line over the past couple of years as does the depth chart the team released on Monday.
When the Cougars take their first snap against UConn this Friday to open the 2014 season, they may be starting two true freshman in Ului Lapuaho (6-7, 333 Fr.) and Tejan Koroma (6-0, 280 Fr.).
That’s quite a development considering that offensive line coach Garret Tujague returns 10 players who started at some point during the 2013 season, including four seniors and three juniors.
The fact that the freshman have earned either starting or co-starting jobs at what is usually considered the two most important positions on the offensive line is even more amazing.
Lapuaho earned the undisputed starting job over Brad Wilcox (6-7, 305 So.) at the all-important left tackle spot and will be tasked with protecting quarterback Taysom Hill’s blind side.
At this time last year, Ului was serving a mission and knocking on doors in Sydney, Australia. He’s a mountain of a man who has earned high praise from his coaches since arriving on campus in January. Bronco Mendenhall has even suggested that he is a future NFL All-Pro in the making.
How well he performs right out of the gate is yet to be determined, but there’s no question that he certainly passes the eyeball test. At 333-pounds, Ului looks fit and athletic. He has long arms and an impressive base from which to work. He has great feet and it’s obvious that he’s had some good coaching from people like his father Robert, who is a former BYU offensive lineman.
Koroma was a dominating presence at center for Allen (Texas) High School last year. However, he was not heavily recruited despite the fact that he played a key role in the Eagles winning the mythical high school national championship. He was passed over because he lacks ideal size to be an offensive lineman at the D-1 level. His listed height of 6-feet tall is probably generous, as is his listed weight of 280 pounds.
Tejan may have been the biggest story of fall camp, coming in straight from high school to tie Terrance Alletto (6-3, 305 Jr.) for the co-starting center job and kicking Edward Fusi (6-0, 322 Sr.), who started six games at center last season, out to guard.
The youngster is already one of the strongest players on the team and will now rotate in as the quarterback of BYU’s front line. In addition to his strength, leverage and ability to handle defensive tackles, he’s also been very consistent with his snaps back to the quarterback, something the Cougars have lacked the past few seasons.
Also of note on the O-line is that fact that Michael Yeck (6-8, 305 Sr.), Ryker Mathews (6-6, 320 Jr.) and Solomone Kafu (602, 328 Sr.) failed to crack the two-deep for the UConn game. With BYU planing to take just 10 offensive lineman to East Hartford, the three veterans who combined to make 28 starts last year may miss the trip.
Mathews is a former Army All-American from American Fork High School who has struggled with injuries throughout his college career at BYU. After coming back from double hip surgery last year, he switched from playing tackle to seeing most of his time at guard. He returned to playing mostly tackle during fall camp.
Yeck didn’t make BYU two-deep this week despite being the only offensive lineman to start all 13 games in 2013. Michael started at both the left and right tackle spots last year, but really struggled in the Cougars’ bowl loss to Washington.
Kafu has started 19 games at guard over the past two seasons, including 11 starts last year.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jordan Johnson and Robertson Daniel are listed as the starters at cornerback despite some rumors that they might be suspended for the game.
Here’s a look at the entire two-deep for BYU:
LT — Ului Lapuaho (Brad Wilcox)
LG — Kyle Johnson or Edward Fusi
C — Terrance Alletto or Tejan Koroma
RG — Brayden Kearsley or Tuni Kanuch
RT — De’Ondre Wesley or Brock Stringham
QB — Taysom Hill (Christian Stewart)
RB — Adam Hine (Algernon Brown)
HB — Paul Lasike or Algernon Brown
WR — Mitch Mathews (Kurt Henderson)
WR — Jordan Leslie (Ross Apo or Keanu Nelson)
TE — Devin Mahina (Bryan Sampson)
SLOT — Terenn Houk (Colby Pearson)
LE — Graham Rowley (Tomasi Laulile)
NT — Travis Tuiloma (Logan Taele)
RE — Remington Peck (Tanner Balderee)
SLB – Alani Fua (Fred Warner)
MLB – Zac Stout (Harvey Langi or Austin Heder)
BLB – Manoa Pikula (Jherremya Leuta-Douyere)
WLB – Bronson Kaufusi (Michael Alisa or Troy Hinds)
FC — Jordan Johnson (Michael Davis)
BC — Rob Daniel (Jordan Preator)
FS — Craig Bills (Skye PoVey)
SS — Dallin Leavitt (Kai Nacua)