Behind enemy lines: Virginia defensive line

Coach Tujague was given the charge to develop the offensive line and change the mentality by establishing a new culture. When BYU plays Virginia on Saturday, that culture will be put to test against some very talented defensive linemen. Fox Sports Virginia beat writer Jacquie Franciulli, along with Coach Tujague and Terrance Alletto, give BYU fans some insight into what the Cougars will face.

When it comes to the standard Coach Tujague and Coach Anae have envisioned for BYU's offensive line, it's difficult to tell if the group has reached the plateau or is still looking up at it. When one adds the fact that the offensive linemen could be switched in and out at a moment's notice in order to keep the group fresh, that plateau seems a little farther off in the distance.

"It is a little more difficult when you're not with the same guys all the time, but I think it will be a big asset to us as we go out and play since it's at such a high speed," said Nick Alletto. "The defense is going to have to switch in and out guys, so for us to then continue to chip away at them, we have to do the same."

According to the depth chart released this week, the starting five linemen for the Virginia game are:

Left tackle Ryker Mathews
Left guard Solomone Kafu
Center Terrance Alletto
Right guard Brock Stringham
Right tackle Michael Yeck

Coach Tujague has often mentioned how he wants to have at least eight-to-10 guys ready to play on the offensive line. Last Wednesday while scrimmaging at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the first-team offensive line only saw three plays before being quickly substituted out.

"What we're doing is we're testing it in our team settings, and getting it tested to see who can go so far and how long," said Coach Tujague. "If we need to do one-man rotation at a time or a full line, we can go both."

So, the second-team linemen should be called upon. According to the depth chart, the backups at the five positions on the line are:

Left tackle Brad Wilcox
Left guard Brayden Kearsley
Center Brayden Kearsley
Right guard Manaaki Vaitai
Right tackle De'Ondre Wesley

"They've come a long way. Getting them familiar with our offense and what we're trying to do has been challenging," said Coach Tujague. "But again, they're starting to grasp it. You take certain levels and degrees of offensive line play and what guys have been doing as a four-year player as opposed to a freshman, and that level is different no matter where you go. The best thing about it is their ability to comprehend what we're trying to do, the reps they're taking in the classroom, the reps they're taking in walk-through, and then applying it out on the field."

The simplification of the offense, along with the blocking schemes up front, should help the group be more effective.

"This is the most simple offense I think that BYU has run, at least since my family has been playing here and especially since I've been here," Alletto said. "It's very simple, very easy for everybody to know – this is a certain pass play and this is what we're doing."

Alletto gave a scouting report of the Cavalier defensive line.

"The front four from left to right, you've got Eli [Harold] and he's number seven," said Alletto. "He's a speed guy. He seems to give up a little bit if you make contact with him, so our left tackle is going to have a good time with him I think. Ryker Mathews should be doing really well."

Harold comes in at 6 feet 4 inches and 230 pounds and was a four-star recruit out of high school who could have played multiple positions on either side of the ball.

"Good football player, and he comes hard and is fast and a very gifted athlete," said Coach Tujague. "He's going to present some problems for us, absolutely. I think he's a good football player. I like what he does. It's been fun to watch him for the last six, seven weeks and get his tendencies and things of that nature. It will be fun to watch it live."

"He gained 20 pounds of muscle over the past year," said Fox Sports Virginia beat writer Jacquie Franciulli. "Eli has great feet and literally will jump off the ball. New defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta said that Eli Harold didn't really seem to fit the style of play last year because they didn't really fight for the ball. They just let things develop last year, but now the defense really attacks the ball. This year it's a bit different and they're going to really attack the ball and Eli is really excited about that. He's young but he's a tough guy on the defense."

In terms of size, defensive tackle Brent Urban is Virginia's version of BYU's Bronson Kaufusi. The 6-foot-7-inch, 295-pound Urban is a senior and a team captain.

"Then you go over to the three technique, you've got number 99 and his name is Brent Urban and he's a huge guy it seems like," Alletto said. "If you want someone to compare him to, Michael Yeck is very similar in size to him, so not super big, but he's a concern I guess."

"He's from Canada and had to learn how to play American football," said Franciulli. "The first thing you notice when you see Brent Urban is his size. That guy is huge. He's really wanted to get his body mass down this pass year and added a lot of muscle. He worked hard in the offseason in the weight room. He can extend himself and can jump pretty high for a big man."

Lining up against BYU's 6-foot-6-inch, 290-pound offensive guard Brock Stringham will be 6-foot-1-inch, 290-pound sophomore defensive tackle David Dean.

"Then there is a guy who just changed his number to number 55," Alletto said. "His name is David Dean and he's in the one technique, so he'll be on the right side shade on me. He seems like a really big hands guy. All front four seem like threats, but at the same time we've got some good assets on our side and should be able to take care of it."

"David Dean was under the radar for everyone and nobody knew who he was until a teleconference with Coach London, who mentioned David Dean, and we were like, 'Who?' Every single coach came out and said the David Dean is a huge surprise," Franciulli said. "He's a guy that put in a lot of work and it's his work ethic that got him to where he now is on the depth chart. He's a player that put in all the work and listened to everything his coaches have said and applied it onto the field. The coaches didn't know what they had in David until this year. Coach London is grateful to have a guy like David Dean on his team that he didn't think he had on the team last year."

On the opposite side of Urban at the other defensive end position is another senior in Jake Snyder.

"[Urban] seems to be the energy of the team, as well as [number] 90, who is the right defensive [tackle] and that's Jake Snyder," said Alletto. "Both of them are seniors and, I think, both of them started and I think Jake actually started the year before that if I recall."

"Jake Snyder is a senior team captain, and when it comes to senior team captains, he's the one who keeps things in order with the younger players," said Franciulli. "He said, 'I have to keep order and that's why I have more gray hair.' He seems very humble about everything when I talk to him. He's everything you would want in a team captain. Virginia only has eight seniors on the team, and so if you want a senior team captain on such a young team where you have seven true freshmen on the depth chart, you want Jake Snyder to be that guy."

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