BYU'S offensive linemen believe their best football is ahead of them.
It has to be, because they've been put on the shelf with scarcely any football games for a month.
But the time has allowed tackle Dallas Reynolds to heal his sprained ankle. Other linemen have the bounce back in their legs, and aches and bruises are mostly healed.
The time off may be a challenge for returning to gamelike timing, but the hogs say they're up for it and anxious to hit.
Since the Eastern Washington game, O-line coach Mark Weber has been able to further cross-train center Sete Aulai to play guard while finding more repetitions for Tom Sorensen, since backup guard Garrett Reden went down to a broken ankle in that last skirmish.
Ray Feinga, whom Reden replaced two weeks ago because of a one-game suspension, is back, and R.J. Willing has taken over Reden's spot as a utility lineman. The big sophomore also will play right tackle, backing up David Oswald.
This depth is unique to a college football team, said Weber, who has been around the block from North Carolina to UCLA in his quarter-century coaching. "We've got eight or nine guys who could start, and that is not the norm in this game," Weber said.
The two linemen who grade out the highest from week to week are left tackle Reynolds and Aulai, Weber said. Most experts who know trench work say Feinga may possess the best tools to make it in the NFL if he'll apply them.
This week's opponent, Colorado State will get a big dose of BYU's offensive line. The Rams have struggled to stop the run this year, running a lot of Tampa Two, a fall-back zone defensive alignment.
The Cougars have experimented with Harvey Unga playing slot receiver, so the offense will display more flexibility with running backs Manase Tonga, Joe Semanoff and now a healthy Fui Vakapuna back in the fold.
As defenses bring more help in the box to stop the Cougar run, quarterback Max Hall says that will just open up the pass. "And our backs are talented enough to make plays even if they stack the box," he said.
CSU coach Sonny Lubick, commenting this week on the Cougar O-line, said: "They're like USC, teams that have real good solid programs. They look bigger than they've ever looked on the offensive line. That's where all that starts. There are a lot of juniors and seniors in their offensive line, which they always have."
Actually, that comment about BYU being loaded with seniors and juniors is not the case. Only Aulai is a senior. The rest on the two-deep include four juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen. Weber has other prospects lined up, including redshirt freshman Matt Reynolds. Terrance Brown, a former starting freshman, is currently serving a mission for the LDS Church.
But as deep as these Cougars appear, as athletic and capable as they seem, as experienced as they were becoming before essentially taking a month off, they have a long way to go to reach their potential, according to their leader, senior center Aulai.
The 6-1, 297-pound offensive captain isn't hiding from the fact BYU linemen have blown a lot of plays, gathered a lot of illegal-motion penalties, lost their cool, missed assignments and failed to use proper techniques that Weber has hammered through their helmet ear holes.
"We've done some good things, but then we can certainly improve on a lot of things. I don't think we've done enough to live up to the expectations for the offensive line this year, but we can definitely get better.
"Max has been hit way too many times, which is something we don't like. We've also given up way too many sacks, which is another thing we don't like. Cleanup on those things are pretty big for us."
Aulai said having a new coach in Weber for the departed Jeff Grimes to Colorado has nothing to do with the struggles.
"It's on us individually, me, in making my calls, the tackles in getting their hips down against the defensive ends and our guards doing better in pass blocking. It's nothing the coaches have to do or say, it's on us, it's about us doing our jobs better, taking the points by the coaches and applying it on the field."
So, once again, it seems, BYU starts the second half of the season all over again after postponement of the game at San Diego State last week because of wildfires.
The Rams are next, a team Utah sprung two 100-yard rushers upon last Saturday.
Are these Cougar hogs anxious?Only about as high as Google stock these days.
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