Projecting the offensive line

Last spring camp looked more like a MASH unit than a Division I football camp. There were about 16 players nursing pre-spring injuries, with another five going down during camp. Of those 16 players, six were offensive linemen. The offensive line position should look much different in fall camp.

The starting offensive line is sort of a mystery given seasonal attrition and injuries that left the position decimated during spring camp. Like the Relief Society, the coaches patched together an offensive line in quilt-like fashion due to the lack of bodies.

Well, how four months can change the look of a program and, undoubtedly, the overall feel and scope of this upcoming fall camp, when all 19 offensive lineman should be ready to go.

With players back from injury, there will be plenty of experienced bodies to battle for spots on the two-deep. Let's take a look at the offensive line and make some projections as to who most likely will be the starters heading into fall camp.

Left tackle

Last spring, Ryker Mathews was still nursing a foot injury and didn't participate. Considered one of the best offensive linemen in the West when coming out of American Fork High School, the 6-foot-6-inch, 313-pound redshirt freshman will be back in the fold for fall camp ready to compete as the projected starter at the left tackle spot.

Coming in at 6 feet 2 inches and 314 pounds and considered the strongest of the offensive linemen, sophomore Solomone Kafu competed at various positions last spring, including right tackle due to injuries. Kafu will push for playing time and is projected to do so behind Mathews.

Along with Kafu, Michael Yeck of Keller, Texas will also push Mathews. Possessing long arms - much like Kafu - and now nearly up to 290 pounds, Yeck showed progress last spring camp and is projected to prepare for the future while serving as a backup this season.

Left guard

Senior Braden Hansen, who was named to the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists this year, played left guard last year as well as during spring camp. However, he is projected to switch to the other side of the line and play right guard this season.

The player that will likely take over left guard in his stead will more than likely come as a surprise for most Cougar fans, if projections turn out right. The projected starter heading into fall camp is 6-foot-6-inch, 318-pound sophomore Famika Anae, who, along with Mathews, is the newcomer to the starting offensive lineman group.

Before Cougars fans question the validity of this projection, former BYU offensive line coach Roger French singled out Anae as a player with great potential during one-on-one drills on Alumni Day last spring.

"Oh, I really like that kid and think he is one heck of a player," said French about Anae. "Yeah, he's a good looking player they got here and I really like the way he moves, and he's got sound technique."


Hansen received reps at the center position during spring camp and player-run practices in the summer. However, this was more to gain experience for depth purposes.

"I've been playing some center and that was a position I learned more about last spring," said Hansen. "I practiced at the center position just to understand and learn the calls and get a feel for it, and it's a position I'm being cross-trained for. I've been working out with Blair [Tushaus] and Houston [Reynolds] quite a bit, and it's been going good."

Meanwhile, the starting center spot should go to Houston Reynolds. Reynolds has game experience as a starter at the guard position. Now healthy, he was given the charge to help ensure that his teammates' technique didn't diminish over the summer, and conducted the player-run practices for his fellow offensive linemen.

Backing him up will be Blair Tushaus. Tushaus was the 15th-ranked center out of high school his senior year. At 6 feet 2 inches and 285 pounds, Tushaus will be entering his sophomore year and has been gaining valuable practice experience during the offseason.

Right guard

Brock Stringham, a 6-foot-6-inch, 287-pound specimen said by running back Michael Alisa to have washboard abs, received a lot of reps at right guard during spring camp until he suffered a leg injury that forced him to wheel around in a cart for the remainder of camp. Stringham will more than likely be relegated to backup duties at either right or left guard.

As mentioned earlier, Hansen is being moved to right guard this year.

"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people this year," Hansen said. "I know a lot of fans felt like we didn't show our potential, but I think they're going to see that this year even though we have a lot of new guys on the o-line. These guys are hungry and have been waiting their turn and now it's finally just around the corner."

Right tackle

The easiest projection has been saved for last, and this one is quite a no-brainer. Having started at right tackle 28 times during the last three years, 6-foot-6-inch, 301-pound Braden Brown is naturally the projected starter this year. And for left-handed quarterback Riley Nelson, that kind of experience protecting his blindside is great to have. Brown sat out spring camp while nursing a shoulder injury, but that injury is now in the past.

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