Dick Harmon: BYU's offensive line growing in strength and in numbers
Michael Brandy, Deseret News
If this group stunk, it wouldn't matter who BYU's QB is going to be.
BYU's offensive line is kind of the story of camp right now, with all due respect to the quarterback issue.
Just five months ago, this unit was as thin as a cracker wafer. Now there are bodies all over the place and many of them meet the eye test. But it's not just that: They're pretty good at pass blocking, more athletic at pulling and getting down field, and they've got an attitude akin to those screaming, aggressive, strutting-their-stuff D-linemen.
One man that's very happy is O-line coach Mark Weber.
"They're gonna be good," Weber said with a quarter-moon smile.
"We have some good workers who are talented. We have more guys ready to play now than in times past. You always have guys who are ready to play, but this year we've got more guys ready to help us win a championship."
Anybody familiar with BYU's football program knows junior Matt Reynolds, with the extra length on his arms, natural balance and penchant for very effectively protecting Max Hall, will be BYU's highest draft pick if he chooses to come out early next spring.
But take a look at Jason Speredon and some of the others. These guys are not cut out of the mold of the usual Cougar offensive lineman with love handles and jiggles. Brandon Brown, at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, was a 250-pound converted tight end a year ago. He's hid his weight gain well.
Speredon's been injured his entire career at BYU and has never really had a chance to show his wares. Now he's a senior and one of those older BYU players many opponents cry about. It's unfair to wheel out a 25-year-old Spartacus. Speredon's been around as long as electricity in Provo.
"The guy's in great shape. At 305, he's got a six-pack," said quarterback Riley Nelson, who knows the politically correct thing to do — praise the linemen and their work ethic in the offseason.
"From a conditioning and a weight-lifting standpoint many of us are in great shape, many consider it the best shape of our lives," said Nelson. "From being able to work through some of the growing pains in the summer, it has put us miles ahead of where we would have been if we hadn't done it."
Nelson says from Reynolds, right down the line, they all have different personalities. It may be too early to tell, but this might be the most vocal and emotional O-line BYU has had in many seasons.
"You have Terence Brown at center, who is very vocal as far as making calls, and he's a real level-headed dude. You have a guy like Braden Brown, who plays with tons of emotion and gets guys jazzed up; and then there's Braden Hansen who comes out and executes and does his job as does Speredon and Nick Alletto (sitting out with minor injuries). This unit is really a tone for our offense," said Nelson.
"Speredon can hold his weight. His 305 pounds is good weight," says Nelson. "It's the same with Braden Brown."
In early camp, it's been Reynolds with Speredon on the left side of center Terence Brown with Braden Hansen and Braden Brown on the right side. The second unit is Jordan Black on the left tackle spot with Ryan Freeman at left guard, Houston Reynolds at center and Marco Thorson and Walter Kahaiali'i manning the right guard and tackle.
While this unit was very thin in spring due to surgeries and LDS mission departures, it has also been supplanted this summer by returning missionaries and incoming recruits. Kahaiali'i was a starter before his mission.
"They're great guys; they work hard, and they're smart. Speredon looks good doesn't he? He's making up for lost time," said Weber.
The coach isn't ready to label the personality, but he admits one clear trait is standing out early.
"They're going to be aggressive. They're tough, and they're aggressive, and they love playing football. It's going to be fun to see."
It's a good starting point for an offense that lost Max Hall, Harvey Unga, Dennis Pitta and Andrew George.
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