PROVO — BYU offensive lineman Ryker Mathews is set to play against Notre Dame this week. The Cougars, who are preparing for another extremely difficult test, are excited to have him back.
The Irish pose not one, but two, projected first-round picks along their defensive front, according to most projections. Louis Nix (6 foot 3, 349 pounds) and Stephon Tuitt (6 foot 6, 312 pounds) form what could well be considered the nation’s top defensive tackle duo — a fact not lost on BYU coaches and players.
“They’re huge. They're definitely big guys and NFL dudes,” Mathews said. “They’re certainly going to give us all we can handle.”
Mathews hasn’t played since BYU's win over Boise State last month, but says he feels better than he has all season heading into this weekend. The sophomore lineman had been beset by a spinal injury.
“I’m so excited and it’s a great time to be back,” Mathews said. “I got to prove something.”
STAR IS IN HIS EYES: The easiest comparison for Irish defensive tackle Nix may be former Utah Ute and current Carolina Panther Star Lotulelei. Lotulelei was made a high draft pick by the Panthers last April and is currently receiving mention as a potential rookie of the year candidate.
"Nix is a little bit taller than Star was, and he's probably heavier, but I played against (Nix) last year and yeah, I'd probably compare him with Star," Mathews said. "They're both great athletes and great players."
KNOCK ON WOOD: Offensive line coach Garett Tujague didn't want reporters to jinx it Tuesday after practice, but his position group looks to be as healthy as it has been all season.
Every offensive lineman on the roster should be available for Tujague to rotate and match against what looks to be a very stout Irish front.
"I believe they're returning almost everyone from that great defense from a year ago, but I like how we're playing going into this one," Tujague said. "Ryker is definitely going to help us. His return is huge and it's great to finally have everyone healthy because we're going to need everyone for this one."