Increasing the offensive line performance

Expectations for the offensive line last year were high, given the level of talent and experience. However, the end result left fans rather disappointed. Since the end of last season, there have been many advancements within the program to improve the results.

When center Terrence Brown lost 25 pounds following his senior season in preparation for the NFL's Pro Day, it raised a lot of questions and vindicated in the minds of many fans that something wasn't right within the program.

"At the end of spring we had an exiting interview with Coach Weber, and we came up with goals as far as our lean tissue mass, strength goals as far as bench, squat and other lifts," said Braden Hansen. "Everybody is different and at different levels as far as those things go, so the goals that we made were done on an individual basis. I think everyone is working on their individual goals that have been set on an individual basis for them to do over the summer, and so everyone is trying to reach those goals before fall camp starts this year."

Nutritionist Dan Wilcox, the same man who quickly transformed Terrence Brown, was hired on to work his magic.

"We've been working with a nutritionist this summer and everything is accounted for," Hansen said. "Everything you eat is monitored every day and ever hour. We have a nutritionist on site working with us planning each meal and everything we eat. The day is mapped out for us day by day, hour by hour. It's that detailed and that crazy."

Pointing across the table to tight end Marcus Mathews, Hansen laughed and said, "Some of us have been trying to gain weight like Marcus [Mathews]. The bigger guys like us are trying to slim down, get that body fat down while adding strength to compete at a higher level. Most of us have been working with a nutritionist and leaning down and just making sure that we have our best season physically."

But in order to get maximum results, nutrition is just one part of the equation.

"We've been doing a lot this summer working on speed and lateral movement," said Hansen. "We've been doing a lot of speed training and are working on making sure our feet are ready for the season. If you don't work on developing the physical side of your body by developing speed and strength, then the nutritional side will only develop you so far. You have to take advantage of what the nutrition does for you by adding to it."

Hansen is now a believer after seeing the results.

"I would say just my overall strength and athleticism has increased," Hansen said. "You know, just getting my squat up, my power clean up and my bench up. Over the last three seasons for me, I feel like I've been able to play with anybody, but I want to take it to that next level where, you know, I can not only handle people, but I'm taking it to people. The biggest thing for me this summer was gaining that natural strength and I'm getting there. I'm squatting more weight than I've ever done in my entire life."

Even running back Michael Alisa has been impressed with the physical results of his big offensive linemen who will block for him this season.

"Brock Stringham has washboard abs and is cut," said Alisa with a smile. "You can see his abs popping out, and what kind of an offensive lineman has abs like that? It's so impressive. To see an offensive lineman work like that and look like that, what about me? I never thought I would see offensive linemen with washboard abs."

The nutritional and physical fitness craze that has swept through the players has fed into their competitive nature.

"The culture is definitely changing with the offensive linemen this year, and it has started this year," Hansen said. "It has been pretty competitive among us. There has been sort of a competition to see who can get the leanest. There is an element there with that because everyone wants to be their best. Everyone is focusing on their personal best and that's how it should be, but there is definitely competition on who's putting up the most weight, who is the leanest, and there is competition everywhere."

Hansen has also seen a change in the level of participation during offseason workouts.

"It's just so much more focused this summer," said Hansen. "You know, this is my fifth season here and this summer has been by far the most intense with everyone sticking around. By far, attendance has been awesome this summer with everyone sticking around. It's just been a lot more intense as far as the workouts, the speed workouts, and the players are looking good. I think everything has increased for us as a whole. Our strength, our speed, our agility and mobility has all increased over the summer and it's been a great summer."

As for who is the strongest in the weight room, Hansen says it's 6-foot-2-inch, 300-pound sophomore offensive guard Solomone Kafu.

"That guy is only a sophomore, but he looks really good as far as strength and is just a beast in the weight room," said Hansen. "He's had a great summer, and also Brock Stringham has had a great summer as well as I've had."

With more quality offensive linemen in the program this year than in years past, the number of players competing for a starting spot has also risen. When one adds the players' improved fitness, it bodes well overall for the offense.

"It will be huge because over the last couple of years we've had six or seven linemen and that's it," said Hansen. "Just a couple of o-linemen rotated in and that's been the last four years. This year it's going to be different. We have a lot more people that can play and a lot more people that are competing for starting positions, and that's healthy. It's going to make everybody better from an offensive line standpoint. It's going to be more intense, it's going to be more competitive and at a higher level. It's going to be good for everybody because I feel like this year we have numbers this year, but we don't just have numbers but quality numbers.

"Losing Matt Reynolds and Terrence Brown, I think initially people thought we're going to take a hit. Just with the younger guys coming in and with those returning, we're going to be ready this year. We're definitely going to miss Matt and Terrence because those guys can't be replaced, but we're got some great talent that's stepping in and learning fast."

With new waist lines, attitudes and culture to drive them, the players want to prove that BYU's offensive line has been revamped.

"I just think the leaders of the offensive line and the guys overall are approaching it with a different mentality as far as being more physical, more nasty and just not taking crap from no one," Hansen said. "We're sick of hearing people say, ‘Oh, we're not very good' or ‘They're not mean and nasty because they're good little Mormon boys who are old and married.' We want to prove everyone wrong and we saw glimpses of it in spring and I think it's going to come to life in fall camp. It's going to be exciting to see this offensive line at a whole new level. The chip on our shoulder has already started and we're ready to prove people wrong. We're going to prove them wrong."

Let's hope Hansen is right, because much like the waistlines of the big men who play on the line, the patience of the fans is also wearing thin.

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