Dick Harmon: BYU's new offensive coordinator Robert Anae made O-line top priority in a hurry

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6 2013 7:50 p.m. MST

Robert Anae effectively sold how serious he is about BYU’s offensive line Wednesday, the first day coaches can officially talk about recruits after the national letter of intent signing day.

Offensive linemen? Priority No. 1, said the Cougar offensive coordinator.

BYU’s 2013 recruiting class quickly became a chase for offensive linemen the past 30 days after six players at that position had career or season-ending injuries in 2012. BYU signed four freshmen and four junior college transfers on Wednesday.

“As soon as I was hired, it was evident we had to have offensive linemen be a major part of our signing class,” Anae said.

BYU sold these players on the idea they’ll become fast-playing tough guys unafraid to take it to defenders play in and play out.

Anae’s O-line recruit work began the day he was hired, flying to Indiana, Columbus, Portland, Oregon, Arizona, California and what he called “all points in between.”

It included shoring up one of Oregon‘s top high school players, Brayden Kearsley, a 6-5, 298-pound offensive four-star offensive lineman at Aloha High School. BYU’s other freshmen linemen include 6-6, 265-pound Thomas Shoaf from Indiana, Bingham High’s 6-3, 285-pound Keegan Hicks, and similar-sized Addison Pulsipher from Temecula Valley High in California. Anae quickly chased down JC linemen Josh Carter (Eastern Arizona), Tim Duran (Cabrillo College), Edward Fusi (Mt. San Antonio College) and De'ondre Wesley (Diablo Valley Community College).

The Cougars also welcome back O-linemen Jordan Black and Cole Jones from missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Anae wants Cougar linemen who play fast and are tough. He wants to re-establish a culture of legacy offensive linemen taught by highly motivated staff members. He’s going to put new hire Garett Tujague in charge of the offensive line and as BYU’s offensive coordinator, he’s going to act as Tujague’s assistant offensive line coach — ensuring a hefty investment in development of line players.

Anae and his boss Bronco Mendenhall will put 40 percent of the five-member offensive staff (18 percent of the entire BYU staff ) working on the offensive line.

And that’s just the nuts and bolts.

The deeper, more philosophical part of Anae’s return to BYU is his plan to duplicate the attitude, speed and work ethic of Bronco Mendenhall’s defense in the offense, which ranked No. 3 nationally in total defense in 2013.

Anyone who has seen Mendenhall’s defense practice knows it to be intense, rough and nasty. Anae will implement his own form of Bronco’s “pursuit drill” and expects it will have the same results in pushing expectations of fast play. “I have my own name for it, but I’m going to keep that in-house for now.”

Anae told reporters he offered returning linemen a clean slate and new start to prove themselves to him and compete for positions in the depth chart. He’ll consider their efforts just as he will the new recruits.

“If you come in the weight room or on the practice field, you will not be able to tell the difference between offensive and defensive players. That’s what I want and that’s what we will work to get,” Anae said.

BYU will not deploy extreme wide splits of offensive linemen like Anae did at Texas Tech. But some splits will be wider than others depending on the play and formation.

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