PROVO — Senior offensive lineman Braden Hansen has played everywhere along the offensive front for BYU. He started off playing right tackle, moved to left guard, saw time at left tackle, filled in at right guard and now is finally set to finish his career at center.
Hansen moved there just prior to the Hawaii game in his team's effort to get better. It wasn't a move the Alta High product was anticipating or even desiring at the time.
"It's a lot different playing center as opposed to guard — a lot different than most people realize — so yeah, it wasn't something I was thrilled about doing. But coaches thought it would be best," said Hansen. "The footwork is different. Your technique is different. And moving from guard to center is the biggest difference I've had to make, but so far it's been good."
Fortunately for Hansen, he didn't go into the center position completely cold. All through the summer, offensive line coach Mark Weber encouraged Hansen to work on his snapping in order to make him more marketable at the next level.
"It made me more versatile — not only for the next level, but for our team and, as it turns out, I needed to be. It's what we needed," said Hansen. "I still have a ways to go, but I've been pleased with how I've done so far and fortunately I haven't had any bad snaps. And I think that's a result of staying after and doing some extra snaps with Riley (Nelson) and Taysom (Hill.)"
The center position is a natural leadership position given all the calls that have to be made. For young offensive linemen such as Manaaki Vaitai, Hansen's presence in the middle is a welcome one.
"Braden knows the positions so well and when he makes calls and tells me what to do, it helps a lot," said Vaitai. "I also have Braden Brown on the other side, so it's been real good for me to have two senior guys with all their experience helping me out."
MENDENHALL SEES IMPROVEMENT: Moving players along the offensive front is only half the battle for BYU's offense. Those parts have to mesh well with each other and simply perform, and that's exactly what head coach Bronco Mendenhall believes is happening.
"In the game against Utah State, we could easily look at the points and say there wasn't improvement, but I saw a ton of improvement in the number of plays per drive, the time of possession, the consistency of play and moving the football," said Mendenhall. "Now we need to add points to it, but against a good defense I saw improvement."
BRONCO IN BLACK?: Cougar fans are expected to show up in black, but will Mendenhall be following suit?
"I'll be wearing whatever our equipment man puts in our locker," said Mendenhall. "I've learned to wear appropriate gear."
INJURY UPDATE: Riley Nelson saw a full set of reps during Tuesday's practice and continues on course to play Saturday. According to Mendenhall, he looks "close to normal."
Running back Adam Hine is expected to miss the Oregon State game due to a patella injury, while defensive back Mike Hague is expected to return to action.