PROVO — It’s no secret that one of BYU’s glaring weaknesses is the offensive line.
But don’t expect the Cougars’ 2014 recruiting class to fix that problem — at least not immediately.
While BYU is expected to sign a few O-linemen Wednesday on national letter of intent day, help up front next season will come in other ways, said coach Bronco Mendenhall.
For example, defensive lineman Tuni Kanuch will switch to the offensive line when spring ball opens next month. Also, Corbin Kaufusi and Ryan Mulitalo are returning from missions, and Jordan Black is coming back from an injury.
“Then add recruits to it, you might be talking about six new faces (on the O-line),” Mendenhall said. “Whether there is someone that the world sees that we recruited and says, ‘Oh, that’s going to be the answer,’ that really wasn’t our intent, because we’re integrating missionaries right back into it. There might be a player or two that looks like we’ve targeted to address it, but those are high school players, which takes time anyway.”
So what were the Cougars’ needs, and what were the coaches targeting during this recruiting period?
“The first need was wide receiver,” Mendenhall said. “When you play as many plays as we’re playing, and at the tempo we’re playing, we clearly need to have more quality (receivers).”
The Cougars are losing their all-time leader in receiving yards, receptions and touchdown catches in Cody Hoffman, as well as JD Falslev. Injuries plagued BYU’s wideouts last season.
“Through the process of attrition, we had very few (receivers) left at the end of the season, which was difficult,” Mendenhall said. “Adding volume to the wide receiver corps was a first and foremost priority.”
The Cougars helped address that need by signing one of the top junior college wideouts in the country, Nick Kurtz.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder from Grossmont Junior College arrives at BYU as a junior with three years to complete two years of eligibility. In 18 games at Grossmont College, Kurtz recorded 1,301 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
Another priority was at outside linebacker, where the Cougars must fill the void of losing Kyle Van Noy and Spencer Hadley. Mendenhall said last week that defensive end Bronson Kaufusi will move to outside linebacker.
Mendenhall said the program’s new go-fast-go-hard offense “absolutely” impacted the way BYU recruits.
The fast-paced tempo, and the higher volume of plays, was tough on the players, not only in games, but also in practices — especially at the end of the season.
“It’s a lot more likely that a freshman will come in and play possibly up to 22 snaps a game, either through their position or on special teams than what they had before simply because of the need of quality athletes on the field to manage the number of plays,” Mendenhall explained. “Our job is to prepare them at a level they can handle a specific role for their first year at a higher level. That’s one of the ways we’re going to address it.”
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