Tom Smart, Deseret News
PROVO — Every offensive success starts with the O-line and that concept hasn’t been lost in BYU’s offensive linemen this spring. Since Garett Tujague took the reigns he’s preached increased tempo, effort and becoming the source of energy for the entire offense.
It’s certainly not just talk, however, as Tujague’s directive is manifest through a practice regimen that includes much more conditioning and subsequent yelling from the sidelines. The regimen has challenged the players considerably, but after four weeks of practices the offensive line has maintained and is starting to take shape.
During the Blue and White game on Saturday, that offensive line dictated the pace and helped produce four touchdowns and a field goal in just 59 plays run. Yes, it was done against a BYU defense that was sitting most of its assumed starters, but it’s the type of production that has been few and far between in recent years.
So is Tujague encouraged by the production and the progress?
“My expectations are out of (LaVell Edwards) stadium, so we have a lot of ground to make up and we’ll keep fighting to get better,” he said. “There’s two things in life you can control and that’s your effort and attitude — what else to you really have control over? That’s what we’re preaching to these guys and they’re getting it.”
Ask any offensive linemen about personal progress made this fall and the answer isn’t about specific technique, superior footwork or any of the usual responses — it’s all about effort.
“I would say conditioning is the main thing — going hard play after play,” answered Michael Yeck on what he needs to improve most. “On Saturday our first drive was awesome — all of the offensive linemen came off the ball and we did great. Then as we start going and the pace starts growing — that’s where you saw the drop-off, so across the board it’s about improving our conditioning.”
Yeck is vying for the open starting spot at right tackle and was recently pointed out by coach Tujague and coach Bronco Mendenhall as someone who has shown marked improvement. Having spent three years in the program, the 6-foot-8 Yeck seems to be hitting his stride.
“This spring has been a real challenge for me, but it’s also been a real growing opportunity for me,” Yeck said. “We have some linemen who are injured, so it gives the younger guys a chance to step in and show what they can do. I feel like I’ve been given a great opportunity and I’m just trying to work my tail of to make sure I don’t waste it.”
Yeck is currently competing with Brad Wilcox and Cole Jones at the position.
Another lineman who has really improved his stock in recent weeks is center Terrance Alletto, who got the nod at starting center in the Blue and White game.
“Terrance Alletto has come out of no where,” Tujague said. “He’s done an amazing job and he’s fighting his tail off if the season started tomorrow he’d be our starting center.”
Alletto spent last season working off LDS mission rust, but has hit his stride and is being aided by an offense that suits his strengths as a player. Through four weeks of brutal work he’s proved equal to the tough conditioning regimen, earning him the nod over Manaaki Vaitai, who is still struggling with the furious tempo set forth by the offense.
“I think I have more confidence this year,” Alletto, a sophomore, said. “Coach Tujague is very good at building player’s confidence and in addition to that I’ve gotten a lot stronger. Coming off my mission I was weighing about 235 and now I’m about 287, so I’ve gained significant weight this offseason.”
Overall, the increased tempo and effort set forth by the offensive line has been readily noted by Mendenhall, who is finally seeing the offensive effort match the effort he’s demanded from his defense since arriving at BYU in 2003.
“I like it a lot and it feels right at home,” Mendenhall said. “For the first time I feel the entire program is unified by expectations.”
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