PROVO — Football games are more often than not won in the trenches. Fortunately for BYU fans, this 2011 BYU football team, it's looking to be strong and deep on both sides of the football.
Along the offensive front, the team returns four of its five starters from a year ago. Overall, offensive line coach Mark Weber feels he has at least eight players that he can use throughout the course of any game.
"I feel like I'm playing behind the best offensive line in the country," said quarterback Jake Heaps. "They're experienced, and I never have to worry about them missing assignments, so it makes things so much easier on me and on all of our running backs and receivers. I can't say enough about them."
Along the defensive front, the team looks to be deep, albeit not quite as experienced as the offensive front. Defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi plans to rotate as many as six players along his line, which should add to its overall productivity.
"I feel we're as deep as we've been in any year I've been coaching, and we have the potential to be very good," he said. "I like the attitude they have and how they're working on the field. I feel that they have a chance to be very good."
The six primary players that will rotate along the defensive front are senior Romney Fuga and freshman Travis Tuiloma at nose tackle, with sophomore Graham Rowley, junior Jordan Richardson, senior Hebron Fangupo and junior Eathyn Manumaleuna rotating in at the end positions.
So who are the standouts with each line group this year?
The Deseret News asked Eathyn Manumaleuna on the defense and Braden Hansen on the offense to help out in accessing the strength of the two units. Both players are entering their third years starting on each line.
Bulldozer: Who is the player who can get off the line quickly and overpower his opponent best?
"I think it's Houston Reynolds," said Hansen. "He has great technique, he stays low and he can drive anyone out of a trench. He's one our younger guys, but I think the term 'bulldozer' describes him the best."
Reynolds is one of the players who has battled for the open left guard spot along with Marco Thorson, Walter Kahaialii and Ryker Mathews this fall.
For Manumaleuna, he may be a bit biased in his opinion.
"I go up against Matt Reynolds every day, and he's the best I've ever had to play against," he said. "So I think he's the bulldozer of the group. He comes at you hard, and you always have to be on your game against him."
On the defensive side of the ball, the consensus was with Hebron Fangupo as being the designated bulldozer.
"I don't know if calling him a bulldozer does him justice," said Hansen. "He's bigger than a bulldozer. He's just a complete beast. I've never played against someone so stout and so powerful, and I've played against a lot of guys. So he's definitely the bulldozer of the defensive line."
Brains: "Terence Brown, he's the smartest guy we have," said Hansen. "He knows the game so well, and he's the perfect guy to have at the center position because he knows exactly what to call out because he knows what is coming."
On defense, Manumaleuna went with veteran senior Fuga.
"Romney studies his opponent really well and helps prepare us real well for each game. He just knows the game and how to go about it better than anyone we have, I think," he said.
Game changer1 comment on this story
It's very hard to argue with both Braden Hansen's and Eathyn Manumaleuna's assessments here. During most practice sessions, it's been Hebron Fangupo who shows up in the Cougar backfield more than any other defensive lineman from his end position.
"He raises the intensity level whenever he's in there for everyone," said Hansen. "He's going to make a huge impact this year for sure."