Spring practice report: day six

Entering this spring practice session, there were some big question marks surrounding certain positions, but offensive line wasn't one of those. BYU looks to be very strong along the offensive front again this coming season, with some added new parts for good measure.

BYU has been recruiting very well for its offensive line during the past few years, and it's beginning to show good dividends on the field of play. This year, offensive line coach Mark Weber has four returning starters and a big stock of new and not-so-new talent to add depth.

There is one open starting position with the departure of Terry Alletto and Jason Speredon, who both rotated at the left guard position, but the replacement won't necessarily just step in at what was vacated. Coach Weber is always intent on fielding his best five linemen regardless of position.

"Who really knows at this point what our starting five will be?" said Weber. "Right now Houston [Reynolds] and Blair [Tushaus] are competing at the center spot, but Terence [Brown] did a heck of a job for us last year and it might end up that he stays there with Houston, Blair or some other guy playing guard. That will all work out in time."

The offensive line doesn't have its full stable of options this spring, as Brown, Matt Reynolds, Braden Hansen and Walter Kahaiali'i are all sitting out as they recover from injuries.

"They want to be out there," said Houston Reynolds about his ailing teammates. "We're so close as a unit that every time they're not out there, you feel it and you want them out there. Our chemistry is so strong, that while it's great that we're building that with all the new guys, you want that same thing all the time with everyone, and they want that as well."

When watching the brutal practice regimen that the players go through every day, one could maybe think that veteran players are fine with sitting out an entire practice session. Houston would disagree with that, however.

"I've been in that situation and it's not fun whether you've proven yourself or not," he related. "Any BYU football player in that situation aches inside when they can't help out, whether it's during the season or during spring ball. Like I said, we're extremely tight as a unit and as a team, and you want to be with your team in everything they do in every situation, believe me."

Houston is seeing most of his reps at the center position, along with freshman Blair Tushaus. Both of them are battling with the aim of starting or at least contributing on the two-deep roster.

"It's great having this opportunity to see a lot of reps," said Tushaus. "Guys are pushing each other and hopefully I'm doing my part in pushing them, and it's been really great so far. I'd definitely love to fill the center spot, but even more than that, I want us to have the best guys out there on the field. If I'm part of that best five, then that will obviously be great, but if not, I'll be happy for whoever is. That's just the way it is with us as a group."

While Weber is obviously the guy coaching them up the most, Tushaus mentioned another face that is really helping him and his fellow linemen.

"Coach [Rob] Morris has really helped us a lot with his NFL knowledge and experience," he noted. "He's been great just teaching us what defenses do and how to counter that. He's been a huge help so far and he'll continue to be for sure."

Weber also has a bunch of new players, such as true freshman Ryker Mathews and recently returned missionaries such as Manaaki Vaitai and Brock Stringham.

"The young guys are sort of like I am when I try to do something athletic right now," Weber said. "You envision it happening faster that it does in reality, but that will come once they get used to what we're doing. It takes time, but I love the attitude I'm seeing and it's been real fun coaching them. It's a very hard thing for these kids, especially for the returned missionaries to get back. I kind of have a feel on how to bring them along now that I've been here a few years, so that helps with me and how I coach them with my expectations."

This spring, Weber wants to develop greater depth.

"I'll use 10 different guys in every game if that proves to be our best option," he explained. "That would be awesome, rotating in and out guys, keeping them fresh, but we'll have to see how it goes. Right now, I like their progress and I do think we're going to have a lot of guys that prove that they're worthy of playing in game situations."

As a coach, Weber likes to cross-train his players, and in recent years fans have already seen his linemen move in and out and around during game situations.

"Terence was our center and you almost never want to move him around, but we did that with him playing even at tackle during certain situations last year," Weber said.

He explained that if a player learns the center position, they can then play any position on the field. In that regard, both Houston and Tushaus are getting a good leg up in contributing this coming season.

"They're learning all the calls and after this spring, they should be very able to play any of the offensive line positions," he said.

High on Phillips

Drew Phillips is one of the more intriguing players for fans this spring for a lot of reasons. So far in the Alabama prospect has not disappointed and has received some early praise from RB coach Joe DuPaix.

"He's doing awesome," he said. "We're all excited to see him on the field because he's a play-maker. We need to continue to develop him as a person and as a player. He's working hard and as long as he continues to work hard, which I believe he'll do, then he'll be a fantastic football player for us."

Practice Notes

-Heaps finished the practice going 3 of 6 for 22 yards during final team drills. His best pass was called back due to a sack, negating an 80-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who had beat double-coverage down the sideline.

-Riley Nelson finished the final team session going 5 of 6 for 76 yards, and Jason Munns went 2 of 3 for 13 yard.

-Defensive highlights included sacks recorded by Ezekial Ansah and Mike Muehlmann


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