PROVO — They’re big. They’re physical. And BYU players are excited to face them.
The Cougar offensive front is expecting its stiffest challenge to date this Saturday when it plays at Wisconsin, and players are looking forward to squaring off against the Badgers.
“I’m excited for the challenge for my guys,” said offensive line coach Garett Tujague. “Opportunities like this don’t come around very often and I think we’ll be ready. Any time you get to play a team that has the reputation Wisconsin does ... you love that.”
The numbers certainly back up the Badgers' tough reputation. Wisconsin's defense enters the game ranked fifth nationally in both scoring and rushing defense. The Badgers are sixth in total defense.
The group presents a 3-4 front, led by senior linebacker Chris Borland.
“He’s definitely a guy that jumps out when watching film,” said offensive lineman Michael Yeck. “They’re all good players. They’re all solid and they’re all really powerful.”
The group is coached by former Utah State defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and brings the same tough mentality his Aggie fronts did — but with arguably much better athletes.
It’s the type of defense that would have presented BYU's offensive front with considerable challenges earlier this season, but drastic improvements have been made since an inauspicious debut against Virginia. Through eight games the group has responded to Tujague’s directives and is riding high after a dominating performance against Boise State.
“The hugest part has just been the reps,” Tujague said. “Any time you get the opportunity to run plays hundreds of times, you’re going to get better, obviously. There’s also been a greater understanding of what we’re trying to do.”
The matchup against Wisconsin offers a rare opportunity for the offensive line, and other position groups, to prove themselves against the very best.
“I love this type of matchup,” said running back Paul Lasike. “I think this will be our biggest challenge looking at film of their linebackers, who we’ll be going against. Their linebackers are real physical and definitely this will be a test for us and I’m confident, with the way we’re preparing, that we’ll be able to take them head up.”
ALLETTO BACK: Center Terrance Alletto has been practicing all week and is expected to again play a major role after sitting out with an injury the last couple of weeks.
“He’s having a great week of practice so far and he started back up last week with us,” Tujague said. “It’s one of those things that I knew how important he was for us, but you never know how much you miss someone until he’s gone. So it’s really good to have him back.”
Alletto is expected to take reps at center, but it’s uncertain how much work he’ll get after recovering from a stinger injury to his neck.
“I would anticipate him to play whatever the threshold is,” Tujague said. “Obviously if I could get him to (take half the reps) then that would be great, but I don’t want to get him in a situation where he’s going to get injured again, so maybe ease him into it.”
Edward Fusi is expected to start at center.
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