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BYU football: Beleaguered line shows improvement

Published: Sunday, Aug. 23 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

This year's BYU offensive line, seen as they were photographed Aug. 13, from left: Nick Alletto, Terence Brown, R.J. Willing, Braden Hansen and Jason Speredon. Injuries have since plagued the line, with Speredon suffering a season-ending torn rotator cuff injury. Backup guard Houston Reynolds tore his ACL last Friday.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

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PROVO — Like most teams, BYU must deal with some uncertainties as it heads into the 2009 season.

For starters, the offensive line — which lost four senior starters from a year ago — has been riddled with injuries. Starting left tackle Matt Reynolds broke his hand (he could still play against the Sooners); starting left guard Jason Speredon suffered a season-ending torn rotator cuff injury; and backup guard Houston Reynolds tore his ACL last Friday.

Redshirt freshman Braden Hansen has been playing left tackle and sophomore Marco "Moose" Thorson has held down the left guard spot.

In the first scrimmage last week, the O-line was flagged early and often with false start penalties. During Saturday's scrimmage, things improved.

"It was cleaner in terms of assignments," Mendenhall said. "Fewer miscues. They're showing the signs of beginning to be a capable unit. Two weeks to go, I'm probably a little bit short of being comfortable, but encouraged."

Of course, Mendenhall is concerned about the depth at that position due to injuries.

Quarterback Max Hall is confident that the offensive line will be solid.

"Those guys have started to gel," he said. "We'll be really excited to get Matt back. Braden will still play. I think we're going to be fine. Those guys will do a great job."

Though Hall was "sacked" three times during the scrimmage, and was whistled for two false start penalties, Hall said the Cougar offensive line "did a phenomenal job."

In the defensive secondary, projected starting cornerbacks Brandon Bradley (groin) and Robbie Buckner (hamstring) continue to nurse injuries. Mendenhall said they will be assessed on Thursday.

"Then that would kind of be a one-week notice that it's got to change or we've got to move on without you," Mendenhall said.

The coach added that the secondary "is a work in progress with enough talent."

BYU is breaking in three junior college transfers — Lee Aguirre, Brian Logan and Corby Eason. Mendenhall said this week that the Cougars could start two of those players in the season-opener.

The task of facing Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, will indeed be a challenge for BYU's corners.

Another area for concern is in the kicking game. Last year, Justin Sorensen was able to kick the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs fairly consistently. The Cougars aren't expected to be nearly as effective in that area this year.

As far as field goal kicking goes, junior Mitch Payne has missed plenty of attempts and has a few other attempts blocked during fall camp. Freshman Riley Stephenson, who has been impressive punting the ball, could push Payne for the starting job. If Payne doesn't improve soon, Stephenson could get the chance to kick field goals for BYU.

BYU camp report

Day 13: The Cougars held their second scrimmage of fall camp Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Quarterback Max Hall looked sharp, leading the offense to a pair of long touchdown drives.

Injuries: Running back J.J. DiLuigi suffered a shoulder contusion.

Next: The Cougars will hold their final two-a-day session on Monday.

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com

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