BYU defense will face WSU's splits

When Mike Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech, his offensive line lined up in a wider-split stance. When former Texas Tech offensive line coach and Leach assistant Robert Anae was BYU's offensive coordinator, BYU's offensive line employed a similar split formation. This Thursday, BYU's defensive line will once again face the splits.

"We expect a lot of passing, so we're expecting a lot of passing sets," said Eathyn Manumaleuna. "We've watched a lot of film on that and their offensive line seems quick on their feet. We have been working on our get-offs and just applying pressure. It's noting different than what we've seen before with their pass sets, but we're just preparing for those types of things."

The Cougars have watched film of Texas Tech's old offense to get an idea of what's to come from Washington State's new air raid offense under new head coach Mike Leach.

"If you don't study it well or don't have good looks against the spread, it can be a benefit for them," said Manumaleuna. "It's a little different facing the splits because they try and spread you out to make it harder for you to rush the quarterback. They try and get you more out of the way."

The BYU defense faced the offensive line splits during practices in the past when Coach Anae was BYU's offensive coordinator. This will aid BYU's defensive line, given the fact that Coach Weber can provide them with the exact same look on the scout team.

"If you can watch and study it and know how to line up, it can help you," said Manumaleuna. "If you've faced the splits before or know how to line up, you can do certain things to help you be successful against the splits. The spread is something that we've seen a lot because our offense has done it in the past, so we have a lot of experience going against it from the past."

Meanwhile, Manumaleuna said that there are certain things he can do to catch the opposing linemen off guard.

"You know where you're going to go, whereas the linemen don't, so you can line up in different spots to make it harder for them to know where you're going to go. You can line up in certain areas to catch them off guard if you've been up against the splits before."

Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of the offensive line splits that BYU's defense will face this Thursday.

"They have to cover more ground if we run stunts or if I decide to go inside," Manumaleuna said. "They can be a little more predictable in what kind of blocks they're going to give based on where we line up. That's one thing we can get from them because they line up in the splits, so it makes them be a little predictable with the kind of blocks they might do.

"On the other hand because they're lined up so far apart, now we have to cover more ground. Our gaps are more wide open because it spreads everybody out, so it gives the running backs more of a look of which gap could be open. There are some advantages for the offense, but there are also some disadvantages, so it comes down to who plays it out the best."

Washington State will have to get its players quickly used to playing in the splits formation, and in a whole new offensive scheme for that matter.

"I think they have one guy back, maybe two," said Manumaleuna. "They're going to have pretty much everybody learning a whole new system under Coach Leach. I know they have a lot of J.C. transfers coming in and filling in."

The Washington State offensive line is as follows:

Left tackle John Fullington

Coming in at 6 feet 5 inches and 300 pounds is junior John Fullington, who will have the tall task of keeping BYU star Will linebacker Kyle Van Noy off the back of WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel. Fullington was moved to left tackle after starting at left guard in 2011. He is a talented lineman, having started for Washington State since his freshman year.

Left guard Wade Jacobson

Redshirt junior Matt Goetz (6 feet 6 inches, 272 pounds) has lost his starting position to 6-foot-6-inch, 300-pound senior Wade Jacobson. A 2010 transfer from Gavilan Junior College, Jocobson is now the starter after missing most of the 2011 season due to injury.

Center Elliott Bosch

Redshirt junior Elliott Bosch (6 feet 4 inches, 271 pounds) is slated to be the starter at the center position. Bosch is a walk-on and made strides over the past year. He beat out 6-foot-5-inch, 270-pound Zack Brevick, who was recruited as a linebacker out of high school.

Right guard Jake Rodgers

Filling in at the right guard position is 6-foot-6-inch, 300-pound redshirt sophomore Jake Rodgers. Rodgers has decent feet and athleticism but has had lapses with concentration and had some technique issues. His experience and maturity are what edged him out over Matt Goetz, who will be the backup guard behind Rogers and Jocobson.

Right tackle Dan Spitz

Senior Dan Spitz (6 feet 7 inches, 301 pounds) is arguably one of the better WSU linemen. The two tackle positions with Fullington and Spitz seem to be the more experienced and talented on the WSU offensive line.

"I would say they have some experience on the outside," said Manumaleuna. "They have some guys moved around on the inside but overall their offensive line has a mix of experience and maybe some lesser experience in some positions. It's going to come down to how comfortable they can play together in the splits. I think that's going to be something they'll have to figure out."

The key for Washington State will be how well their linemen can pick up the fundamentals of protecting quarterback Jeff Tuel while playing with the wide splits. What it will come down to is how well WSU's offensive line can consistently protect Tuel against a senior-laden BYU defensive line, which has more experience facing the splits than WSU's offensive line has employing it.

"Yeah, it could be a challenge for them if they're not use to it," said Manumaleuna. "I'm sure they'll probably get a lot of that figured out, but, like I said, this isn't something that we haven't faced before here in the past with our own offense."

If the Cougars of BYU can apply pressure to quarterback then it could be a long night for the Washington State offense.

The air raid offense will live and die by the performance of WSU's offensive line. BYU's defense can expect a short, quick-strike passing game with lots of screens from the WSU offense.

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