Commentary: Robert Anae's new offense hangs on the offensive line
Tom Smart, Deseret News
BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae is back in Provo with a new offense to install. This offense depends heavily on speed as Anae expects the offense to run to the line of scrimmage after every play and get the snap off as quickly as possible.
After all, BYU snapped the ball on average about eight seconds after the officals placed the ball during BYU's Blue and White scrimmage, but that reportedly wasn't fast enough for Anae.
After all, the success of Anae's new offense hangs upon the speed and abilities of the offensive line.
Injuries decimated this unit last season. For example: Houston Reynolds tore his Achilles tendon against Utah and didn't play for the rest of the season, and center Branden Hansen dealt with a groin injury for much of the year.
BYU's line was thin last season, which is why the offensive line was a central focus of Bronco Mendenhall's recruiting efforts this year. The Cougars signed nine of them in the 2013 recruiting class, five of them being junior college transfers.
The top recruit of this class is Brayden Kearsley from Aloha, Ore. BYU won out for Kearsley's services over big-time schools from automatic qualifying conferences such as UCLA, Washington and Arizona State.
According to this scouting report from ESPN, Kearsley excels at run blocking. However, it also says that "Kearsley does not appear to be an immediate starter at the BCS level of competition and some time and perhaps a redshirt year might be necessary to polish his technical skills and grow physically."
Kearsley may need to step up quickly given BYU's immediate needs. While he may or may not start, he will likely see some action in 2013.
Nevertheless, the Cougars do have some returning starters on the line so that they won't have to entirely depend on new talent. Left tackle Ryker Mathews will lead the new offensive line. However, Mathews wasn't able to take part in BYU's spring camp, as he is recovering from double-hip surgery.
Regardless, BYU's post-spring depth chart lists Mathews as a starter, and he should be ready to play by the time fall camp begins.
Also, junior Solomone Kafu returns at left tackle after starting eight games last season.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Johnson currently tops the depth chart at right guard and will get a chance to prove himself against college teams for the first time this season. He's a walk-on offensive lineman, but many walk-on players have found a prominent place on Mendenhall's teams over the years.
First round NFL draft pick Ezekiel Ansah is a prime example.
Junior Michael Yeck tops the depth chart at right tackle. While Yeck played in every game last season, he will have to step up as a starter.
Last, but certainly not least, is sophomore Terrance Alletto. He will start at center, the most underrated position in college football. After all, nothing can disrupt an offense's rhythm than a bad snap. This is particularly true in the kind of hurry-up offense that Anae is installing at BYU this season.
Alletto saw some playing time against four teams last season, most notably against Georgia Tech. It will be critical for Alletto and new starting quarterback Taysom Hill to get on the same page as quickly as possible.
Fans may not hear the names of these offensive linemen much this season. After all, other positions on offense get most of the glory. People remember the quarterback who passes for that winning touchdown or the running back who regularly breaks 100 yards rushing.
They all too often ignore the big men up front who make the blocks which make those big plays possible.
But make no mistake. The success or failure of Anae's high-speed offense hangs on the abilities of these unsung heroes. Anae appears to know that all too well, which is why he's made the offensive line his No. 1 priority.
Hopefully for BYU fans, these offensive linemen can help bring the Cougar offense back up to the top.
Lafe Peavler is a National College Football Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @MasterPeavler.
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