PROVO — Having been limited throughout the spring practice session with injuries, the assumed starters along BYU's offensive front have a lot of makeup work to do, and they’re raring to go. Extra workout effort this offseason will be a hallmark for the ailing big uglies, as a result — at least according to Houston Reynolds.
“We have to work doubly hard having missed spring practices, and we all know this,” said Reynolds. “We missed a ton of stuff not being able to practice this spring, and if I know the guys I play with like I know that I do, we’ll all be putting in double the time to try and get back what we missed this offseason.”
The injured offensive line list this spring was plain ridiculous, with about all assumed OLs likely to make up the two-deep roster for the coming season out. Braden Hansen, Braden Brown, Walter Kahaialii, Ryker Mathews, Brock Stringham and Reynolds himself all were unable to perform for most of the session.
All of the above were seen consistently throughout the session, however, as able to perform light, no-contact-type drills. When the pads were strapped on or when the team went live in 11-on-11 scrimmages, they took to the sidelines.
Some fans readily assumed that the group, as a whole, didn’t mind being injured, as it preempted a lot of the hard work that accompanies any practice session.
“I don’t think most people understand how frustrating it is to a football player not to be able to play or practice,” said Reynolds. “As a group we hang out a lot, and the frustration level of all the guys — it was high, very high. We’re football players and we’re committed to this team and being at our best, and we can’t be at our best if we’re not doing everything we can to get better, so being out and unable to get better and help our team get better — it’s extremely frustrating.”
The result was ineffective offensive reps during scrimmage situations — ultimately forcing coaches to cut out the traditional practice-ending reps all together. Fraught with a very experienced first-team defensive front, the fill-ins at offensive line simply couldn’t mount much of an attack.
Quarterbacks were being whistle-sacked almost the second they completed their drops; running backs seldom, if ever, were able to make the edge on any running play and were often whistle-tackled the second the ball was handed off to them.
“I felt bad for the new guys because a lot of them were practicing against the first-team defense for the first time,” noted Reynolds. “A lot of them, like Corbin Kaufusi, it was the first time they ever went against anyone in practice and he’s having to block guys like Eathyn Manumaleuna — it was tough for them, but I’ll tell you what, they did a heck of a job and worked very hard and they’ll all be better this season as a result.”
What that group of inexperienced linemen gained was not only personal development but a greater sense on how to work together as a unit. According to Reynolds, that’s what will hurt the assumed starters most.
“You have five offensive linemen and they have to learn to work together — to trust each other and get familiar with each other,” explained Reynolds. “Every position group has to work together, but I don’t know if there is any group where that is more important than with the offensive line. We lost that and we’re now behind. That’s not even to mention the personal development like I said, it’s been incredibly frustrating.”
So how can they work to rectify all the missed work, and what type of offensive line can fans expect come fall?
“We’re going to work our butts off,” said Reynolds. “We already have workout captains for the summer, and although they’re voluntary, I know that all of the guys that missed all of spring will be out there as much as possible because we have so much work to make up. I think we can be a great offensive line this season, and if we work like I expect all of us to in the offseason, then we should be able to be really good as a unit, but yeah, we have a lot of work to do before fall practices.”
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