This has been the best offseason I've seen since I've been at BYU. —Brandon Doman
SALT LAKE CITY — Brandon Doman believes BYU football is winning the offseason — if that is possible to chart and judge at a time when the state's cherry trees load up with fruit and summer camps begin to dominate.
Doman spoke to reporters Monday after the 24th annual National Kidney Foundation golf tournament at The Country Club, where he replaced head coach Bronco Mendenhall at the fundraising event. Mendenhall is vacationing in New Zealand.
"This has been the best offseason I've seen since I've been at BYU," said Doman, who enters his second season as offensive coordinator for the Cougars. "We have 29 seniors, so our offseason looks better than it's ever been."
He attributes his optimism about workouts to a new conditioning program with tweaks, new emphasis and techniques and senior leadership, particularly that of returning starting quarterback Riley Nelson.
"Our strength and conditioning staff have made some changes and adjustments and it's really been good. The rehab work and training and all that goes into making the performance of an athlete have really improved at BYU the last two months. It's fun to see."
Doman also said Nelson has been making a difference in the direction the team is taking since conditioning began in January.
"Riley is making a huge difference with his leadership," Doman said. "We've had some great senior quarterbacks. John Beck and Max Hall were great seniors and leaders. This guy is an unusual presence. Our team responds to him in a unique way and it's fun to watch him do it."
Doman said all the things Nelson is doing with the team has nothing to do with him.
"Nothing he does is about him," Doman said. "He's working as hard as any senior we've had and that's not to say other seniors didn't work hard. He's working his tail off but his purpose is solely for his teammates and it allows his leadership to be quite a unique one."
So, what does that mean?
"I always say there has to be truth in your purpose and willpower in your character to be a successful leader," Doman said. "He possesses both."
BYU's spring practice sessions were hindered by a lack of healthy offensive linemen. It dictated the amount of 11-on-11 sessions coach Bronco Mendenhall could schedule in practices and scrimmages and curtailed the spring game, which was open to the public.
Are there lingering issues with that unit this summer?
"It was a set of weird injuries that prevented us from having a physical spring for those guys," said Doman. However, he said BYU's numbers on the offensive line are not a concern heading into summer and the start of fall camp.
"Across the board right now, our depth on the offensive line is as good as it has been with 17 or 18 on scholarship — and that's unheard of. Now it's a matter of getting them in shape."
And that brings us to one of Doman's main goals since he took over for Robert Anae as offensive coordinator in January 2011. He wants BYU's 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5 linemen to slim down, shed some pounds, play lighter on their feet and be more versatile in the movements they make in the offense.
"They are too big. Speed and athleticism with their overall ability is crucial," he said. "Things we do in our pass protection and run schemes require that they be really lean and athletic so we've focused a lot of energy in creating lean muscle mass in our conditioning. We want our offensive linemen to be as lean and athletic as possible.
"That is happening at a faster rate than I expected, so I'm expecting to see a very athletic offensive line walk on to the field when we start things up in August, and hopefully they'll play as good as we've played in a while."
So Doman, never one to waste words for the sake of just saying things, makes a point.
In summer, he is a believer that somehow, someway, the Cougars are making key progress in areas needed this time of year.