Everybody knows who Osa is. He’s a load back there. He’s about 15 pounds heavier than last year. At 6 foot 4, 230 and carrying the ball, he’s tough to tackle and he’s pretty unblockable at linebacker. He’s a matchup problem for offensive linemen. —Brighton head football coach Ryan Bullett
Note: Brighton finished with a 12-2 overall record in 2013 and was second in Region 3 with a 4-1 reocrd. It lost to Bingham 38-13 in the 5A championship.
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Ryan Bullett is not quite sure his offense will be clicking until about Week 6.
Sure, his Brighton football team returns all-state standout Osa Masina, three-year starter Drew Jensen, and four more offensive starters from its 2013 5A runner-up squad.
But the Bengals lost all five offensive linemen and their tight end, and the head coach knows it will take time to find the rhythm that took them to Rice-Eccles Stadium last November.
“It’s going to be a learning process,” Bullett said. “I think we’re going to score some points and we’ll be pretty good on defense, but there’s a lot of inexperience and youth on the offensive line.”
That being said, the players leading the show at Brighton do offer a great deal of know-how, particularly in the area of playing through inexperience. These upperclassmen were in the championship game last season and they know how much work it took to get there.
“You kind of put it all in perspective,” Bullett said of the 2013 playoff run. “Obviously, it was nice getting there, it was fun getting there, the kids were excited, it did a lot for the program, but we also know how hard it was to get there — and that was such a long process building. The groundwork was laid a couple of years earlier when we started a lot of those guys as sophomores. A couple of years earlier we took some lumps building up to that.”
Masina was one of those players who contributed as an underclassman. Now entering his senior season, the running back and linebacker continues to make a great impact wherever he is on the field.
“Everybody knows who Osa is. He’s a load back there,” Bullett said. “He’s about 15 pounds heavier than last year. At 6 foot 4, 230 and carrying the ball, he’s tough to tackle and he’s pretty unblockable at linebacker. He’s a matchup problem for offensive linemen.”
Masina also has a knack for involving other kids in the game — and raising their level of play.
“The one thing Osa does is he plays at such a high level, I think it raises a lot of other kids’ levels,” Bullett said. “They do play better than they are. I have seen that happen now for a couple of years with the kids that are playing with him.”
The coach added that Masina’s attention-grabbing abilities are cause to spread the ball around more than Brighton did a season ago.
“Last year everyone was keying on Osa. It was, you stop Osa, you’ve got a good chance of stopping us,” Bullett said. “We’re going to throw the ball a little bit more than we had to last year. We’re not as big up front, we do have some pretty good skill kids out there and they need to learn to work together.”
That brings junior quarterback Jensen into the mix. An all-around athlete, Jensen is difficult to keep off the field.
“He broke his hand halfway through last season,” Bullett said. “We moved him to receiver, he had surgery and didn’t miss a beat, didn’t miss a game.”
The 6-foot-2 utility player just moved to wherever the team needed him at the moment.
“He can play quarterback, he can play tailback, he can play receiver, he can play free safety, corner, DB, he can play linebacker, plus he’s our punter,” Bullett said. “He’s a pretty multi-talented kid; he’s a super athlete.”
Although it will take some time to find their place in their roles on the team, the head coach is excited about who he has returning, who he has stepping into varsity roles for the first time, and what he thinks the Bengals can accomplish in the season ahead.
“I think the best thing that’s coming back with this group of guys is they all played (some) last year and we all got into that championship game,” Bullett said. “We’re going to score points, the kids know we’re going to score points, so there’s a lot of confidence in the group right now.”
Brighton Bengals at a glance
Coach: Ryan Bullett is entering his ninth season as the head coach at Brighton, where he has accumulated a career record of 45-43. He is a graduate of Hillcrest High, Dixie State College, and the University of Utah.
(Six returning starters, Pro-style offense)
The Bengals intend to throw the ball a little more this season, using junior quarterback Drew Jensen’s arm and athleticism to diversify the offense. A year ago, the team leaned heavily on the run game behind a big and established offensive line. This time around, all five linemen and the tight end will be new to the starting lineup, including Issac Vance and Max Linder.
Brighton’s main weapon, however, continues to be standout running back Osa Masina, who has gained a significant amount of size and strength entering his senior season. Last year, Masina totaled 1,643 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns on 222 carries as well as 89 receiving yards on 14 catches.
(Six returning starters)
With a roster size in the 80s, the Bengals have many players on the field for offense, defense and special teams, and Bullett is OK with that.
“I think you’ve got to play your best player,” the coach said. “If he’s probably your best player on offense, if he’s probably your best player on defense, I think you’ve got to play him both ways.”
So, he prepares his kids to play 100 plays a game while opponents at larger schools, with larger teams, may be on the field for approximately 40 plays a game.
For the Bengals, Masina, Jensen, Vance, Linder, and Kaden Garden, a defensive back and receiver, are a handful of those kids.
Masina recorded 87 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks last season, while Garden had 46 tackles and two interceptions.
Coaches’ preseason Region 3 straw poll: Second
Deseret News Region 3 prediction: Second
Bottom line: With a large selection of new starters and limited numbers on the roster, the success of the Bengals will be highly dependent on getting up to speed quickly, especially on offense, and then staying healthy. Brighton has a lot to live up to with the success of last year’s team, but the team also knows from experience what patience can bring.
Brighton coaching history
2006-current — Ryan Bullett (45-43)
1999-2005 — Tom Cushing (69-17)
1988-98 — Lynn Freestone (90-33)
1978-87 — Steve Dangerfield (70-32)
1974-77 — Unknown (21-19)
1970-73 — Rex Wright (19-19)
1969 — Dean Stringham (1-8)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2005 — Mike Hague, RBComment on this story
Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years
2013 — Osa Masina, RB
2013 — Jackson Barton, OL
2013 — Tyson Aldridge, OL
2013 — Isaiah Kaufusi, LB
2012 — Jackson Barton, OL
2009 — Ricky Heimuli, OL
2005 — Visesio Salt, OL
2005 — Jesse Taylor, LB
2005 — Coleman Petersen, K
2004 — Randon Carter, RB
2004 — Blake Taylor, OL
2003 — Blake Taylor, DL
2003 — Zac Marold, DB
To view second team and honorable mention All-Staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.