BYU’s O-Line is Fine — Just in Time
Don’t look now, but the BYU offensive line is starting to come together.
And just in time.
After two weeks of fall practices filled with injuries, demotions, transfers, cross-trainings, and career-ending chronic conditions, even the Cougars’ starting quarterback was expressing frustration with the revolving door in front of him.
Precious time was ticking down, time that an offensive line looking to replace two starters from 2011 needed to help create continuity.
It was an issue that was becoming a key story coming out of camp.
However, during the Cougars’ second scrimmage of the season on Thursday, the five guys that many have believed would be the starters up front when BYU opens the season against Washington State took up their expected spots.
The group of Ryker Mathews at left tackle, Braden Hansen at left guard, Houston Reynolds at center, Brock Stringham at right guard and Braden Brown at right tackle now appear to be set as the starting five when the Cougars take the field on Aug. 30th.
And they still have a couple of weeks to work together before we start keeping score.
During Thursday’s scrimmage the offensive line was impressive, clearing the way for BYU running backs, who gained nearly 200 yards on the ground, including 117 on 13 carries from redshirt freshman Adam Hine. The group drew praise from Bronco Mendenhall, even though much of the success came against a defense that was missing many projected first team players.
Bronco and his staff appear to have little or no concern about the fact that they will be starting a redshirt freshman in Mathews at left tackle this season. Part of that is because the former Army All-American is supremely talented, the other part is that he won’t be protecting Riley Nelson’s blindside, seeing that the senior signal caller is left handed.
Ryker was penciled in as a member of the two-deep last year behind Matt Reynolds before he was sidelined for the season with a foot injury just a week before the first game against Ole Miss. He was widely regarded as the sixth best option on the line despite the fact that he was straight out of high school.
This fall Mathews has returned healthy after missing spring drills, but Reynolds, Stringham and Brown have all spent time sitting out of practices with various nagging injuries, while Hansen has been working his way out of the dog house for not meeting his fitness goals coming into camp. The Outland Trophy candidate had largely been relegated to working with the second team while earning the right to rejoin the ones.
Thursday was the first time that the entire group took a snap together.
The primary back ups this season appear to be Blair Tushaus, Michael Yeck, Famika Anae and Solomone Kafu, who hopes to return in the next two or three weeks after suffering a broken hand earlier this week.
Tushaus has been cross trained at both center and guard this year, although he is a bit undersized to play the guard spot. If one of BYU’s guards were to go down with an injury, the most likely scenario would be for Reynolds to move to guard and Blair to come in as the starting center.
Yeck can play either tackle position, although if the Cougars were to lose a starter at tackle, an option could be to move Hansen to the outside, then move Reynolds into Hansen’s position and Tushaus to center. Braden spent a good part of his time with the twos this fall playing tackle.
Other players that may be called upon if the line is hit with a rash of injuries include Austin Hoyt, Ryan Freeman and Manaaki Vaitai.
Here’s how the “functioning” two-deep should look against Washington State:
LT – Ryker Mathews (6-6, 292 Fr.) – Michael Yeck (6-8, 288 So.)
LG – Braden Hansen (6-6, 307 Sr.) – Famika Anae (6-6, 312 So.)
C - Houston Reynolds (6-2, 305 Jr.) – Blair Tushaus (6-2, 270 So.)
RG – Brock Stringham (6-6, 290 So.) – Famika Anae (6-6, 312 So.)
RT – Braden Brown (6-6, 300 Sr.) – Michael Yeck (6-8, 288 So.)