BYU football notebook: True freshman Brayden Kearsley making a strong early impression
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — With just seven games under his belt, true freshman Brayden Kearsley has emerged as one of the more aggressive and nasty offensive linemen on the team. He’s often found engaged in extracurricular activity following the whistle — often earning him some cheap shots from the opponent as a result.
His position coach, Garett Tujague, doesn’t mind Kearsley’s aggressive nature, nor the extracurricular activity much.
“I love every bit of it — every second of it,” Tujague said. “That’s a huge part of what we’re trying to develop here. Once you [enter the game] you’re a nasty dude. Once you [leave the game] you open the door for a young lady, you call your mom every night and tell her you love her and all that good stuff. But when you cross the line, it’s time to get to work.”
Kearsley has seen his playing time increase steadily since sitting out the team’s first game against Virginia. He’s logged time at guard, but has recently seen most of his reps at center — rotating with junior college transfer Edward Fusi.
The learning curve for any first-year offensive lineman is steep, but Kearsley caught on quickly to what Tujague preaches due to how he's approached the game since a young age.
“You got to work for everything you get because nothing is going to get handed to you,” Kearsley said. “I’ve always played like that since I was in the second grade just being physical, I get a lot of it from my mom and my dad and how they raised me.”
Work and desire are one thing, but natural talent is another. Fortunately for Kearsley, he's been blessed with the type of ability that earned him a bevy of Pac-12 offers coming out of high school.
Early in his career that natural talent has become apparent. “His ability to be much more athletic than the guy he goes against is a huge advantage he has,” Tujague said.
Despite his early success, Kearsley is not satisfied and continually strives to be better while continuing to be the same nasty type of lineman his coach loves.
“The whistle is just an option,” Kearsley said. “That’s the way I look at it — I want to keep playing until they pull me off. I love the game of football and I want to be as physical as I can. It’s going to be fun playing in this offense for the next four years.”
Eight is too much
There was a lot of good involved with BYU's 47-point performance against Houston, but enough bad to make some necessary adjustments. First and foremost among the adjustments is improvements with pass protection.
The offensive line yielded eight sacks against Houston, which is eight too many, according to Tujague.
“There were some breakdowns and some things that overshadowed some of the success that we have to work on,” he said. “Eight sacks is completely unacceptable, and we know that and we’re focusing on getting that better this week.”
Mathews makes special teams impact
It went unnoticed by many fans, but players and coaches insist receiver Mitch Mathews played a key role in Houston's late missed field goal.
"Mitch definitely got a finger on the kick," said defensive back Mike Hague. "It was hard to notice, but he definitely changed the trajectory and forced the miss and it was obviously huge."
Mathews approached special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga about a month ago with the idea to play as the team's middle blocker defending kicks. Given his 6-foot-6 frame and 36-inch vertical leap, the role makes a lot of sense.
During one of the most crucial junctures of last Saturday's game, Mathews approached coaches again.
“In the game it was [Mathews’] idea too,” Poppinga said. “He was standing by coach [Paul] Tidwell and coach asked if I wanted to send him in and I said, ‘crap yeah’ and he got his middle finger on it. It was awesome. He timed it up good and so we’ll see if it continues to work as the season goes on.”
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