Defending one's quarterback

When a Houston defender grabbed Taysom Hill's facemask during last Saturday's game, the sophomore quarterback's head violently whipped around and his body quickly followed suit. It was a tackle that could have caused a serious injury. Standing nearby were BYU's offensive linemen, who took notice but played it cool.

"It was violent and it was nasty," said a serious De'ondre Wesley. "You know, you want to do something, but it all depends on the situation. If I could go back and if maybe it was at the beginning of the game, why not take that guy out? You gotta do what you gotta do, but in the end it sparked a score. Seeing stuff like that does hurt, knowing you can't do much about it. If it happens again, I don't know man, I might have to take a guy out because that's not cool."

While the facemask incident was in no way premeditated, the nature of it was so violent that it could have caused a serious neck injury. While linemen take exception to such play, handling such circumstances has to be done wisely and within the rules of the game.

"I'm an offensive lineman who likes to get after people. I'm what you would call an aggressive person," said Wesley. "When I see something like that, and looking at the situation we were in, it's a plus-15-yard gain. I know Taysom just took a big hit, but at the same time I can't be selfish and club a guy or knock a guy out to give them 15 yards back. You have to be smart about it because in the long run it would hurt the overall team and at that point in time we were down in the game."

"I don't want to cause my team harm with stupid penalties, but as a whole our offensive line wants to keep guys off our quarterback Taysom and our running backs," said Brayden Kearsley. "We have to start taking more pride in that and keep our guys healthy. We don't want anyone touching our quarterback. A first-and-10 is better than a second-and-20 because I got mad and retaliated. You have to be smart about it and play within the rules."

It's a tough situation for those trained and conditioned to protect their quarterback. Offensive linemen are constantly engaged in a controlled fight against defensive players who are trying to crush the player they're protecting. To not retaliate when such a violent act occurs takes a lot of internal fortitude.

"Usually it does make you mad as an offensive lineman because you don't want anyone touching your quarterback let alone taking him down like that," said Wesley. "Usually you take note, and when you see him lining up across from you, that's when you go after him and try and hit him as hard as you can within your assignment and the rules. You just try to get a big hit on him and let him know that what he did was not cool."

"You remember it and take it to the next play," said Kearsley. "Things like that don't go unnoticed, but you have to play within the game. It's tough because the first thing you want to do is throw everything out the window, but you can't. You have to help your team, not hurt it."

When Kearsley takes the field, he has no intention of making friends. He's nasty and mean and plays that way, and it's resulted in some squabbles on the field. When he's on the receiving end of a nasty play – like when a Houston defensive lineman threw a punch at him last Saturday – he internalizes it and uses it as ammunition for the next play.

"Being here at BYU has channeled my attitude a lot and helped me to internalize my aggressiveness," Kearsley said. "It was so hard for me not to swing back at the dude that hit me in Houston, but when that happens I just try and channel it and take it to the next play. You don't want to force things like that and hurt your team. You want to remember it and take it to the next play. That's what I do."

Linemen like Wesley and Kearsley pride themselves on protecting and always having Hill's back.

"I just love playing for Taysom," Kearsley said. "I remember one time I got into a little tussle with a Utah player. Taysom was right there to get my back, so you always want to block for a quarterback like that.

"I love how Taysom plays. I love playing for him and I love blocking for him. It's just fun watching and seeing him do the kind of things he does. He's just flat out a hardnosed player and the type of guy that could literally play any position. The way he plays, you love that as an offensive lineman. He has your back and you always want to have his back. That's why it's tough not to retaliate when you see Taysom get tackled the way he did that last game."

This Friday BYU will face another scrappy team in Boise State that's similar in nature to Houston. BYU's offensive linemen don't want to see their quarterback go through or experience what he did last Saturday again.

"We just try to be assignment-sound and talk to each other and see where [the pressure] coming from and what they're doing and how to correct it," said Wesley. "When we see Taysom take a big hit like that, it's not something that we let go. No, it's a big deal to us. So, we had seven or eight missed assignments, or whatever, that really hurt us, and at the same time we can't have our quarterback taking hits like that.

"We talk about it as an o-line group all the time and say that we have to buckle down and be assignment-sound and get our guy and make sure nobody touches [Hill]. Man, being an o-lineman, it's tough. We get the heart of the criticism and, you know, we just try and go out and do the best that we can to protect him and block whoever comes our way."

"We need to take more pride and fight for Taysom the same way he fights for us," said a stern Kearsley. "That's what we're trying to do as an offensive line and why we work so hard. I love blocking for Taysom because he's a tough kid. We want to have his back out there on the field because we all know he's got ours."

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