Troy Verde/Total Blue Sports

The BYU offensive line has made considerable gains this off season and Tuni Kanuch believes it will serve them well in the 2016 campaign

The BYU offensive line is visibly much bigger than in recent years. The hogs up front look have all gained in size and strength having taken part in a stringent lifting schedule over the summer. BYU offensive guard Tuni Kanuch gave TBS the rundown on why the O-line will be clean and mean by the season opener against Arizona.

The BYU offense is learning a new scheme under Coach Detmer and that means it all starts up front with the offensive line. So, how is the front adjusting to the new offensive regiment?

“Sometimes there’s still some confusion because we learned some things in spring, at least a little piece of it, and now we’re coming back trying to learn more of it,” said offensive guard Tuni Kanuch. “Now it’s even tougher because we’re in pads and our defense is good. The defense has a lot of ballers out there and they’re coming at you fast, so trying to remember what you’ve learned and apply it without having to think about it is tough.

“It’s fun though, being out here in pads. The coaches know that we’re not going to get it all in one try, but we’re just trying to be physical. If you don’t know what to do, just go put someone on the floor, but that at times can be difficult as well. You just have to out there and try and hit somebody.”

There’s still some work up front that needs to be done in terms of understanding various aspects of the new scheme, which will be explained in an upcoming article featuring Coach Empey. In the meantime, until the offensive line gets all of what is expected, there is a simply philosophy the linemen go by.

“If you don’t know what to do at least be physical because you’re contributing in some way,” Kanuch said. “It’s better to be physical than not when you don’t know what to do. So, rather than being confused then hesitant, which leads to not being physical, a chain of events occur that doesn’t contribute in any way.”

The Go Fast, Go Hard philosophy under former offensive coordinator Robert Anae was both fun and frustrating to watch at times. BYU now will take a go fast, go hard approach but that’s after they huddle up first. Kanuch played in both systems and gives a rundown on why the huddle helps in ways the go fast, go hard offense couldn’t.

“It is slower in a sense but a lot of how fast you go is in the hands of the quarterback,” Kanuch said. “Our quarterbacks are so confident and so competitive. Sometimes they hurry us up and that’s good because it bring a sense of urgency to us lineman. They keep us on point.

“The huddle offense helps you to breathe and catch your breath for the next play. This year us lineman have gotten big with good weight, so the huddle is a good thing because it helps us to catch our breath.”

The huddle also increases communication among the offensive line and that leads to greater in-game chemistry.

“The huddle also allows us to get a chance to talk things out for a sec so we can all get on the same page,” Kanuch said. “It helps us to gather our thoughts. For example if I make a mistake and I left the right tackle hanging I can go to him in the huddle and say, ‘Sorry bro I left you hanging out there. Trust me, I’ll be there for you next time.’ I think it brings us closer together as a team and helps us to be on the same page rather than guessing or hoping so we can have that confidence and chemistry.”

So huddling between plays allows for recovery and greater communication, which allows for greater in-game chemistry. Couple those elements with a bigger, stronger offensive line and the Cougars might be able to power their way in the trenches. To ensure they can do such a thing, the coaches devised a strict weightlifting regimen for the summer.

“We squatted every day in the summer,” Kanuch said. “I mean, ‘Whoa!’ It was good though because, one, we suffered every day together and that’s a good thing because it brought us closer together. Then two, we’re ready for anything. We squatted every day and we lifted hard. I’ve seen some guys I thought weren’t very strong become some of the strongest players on the team. We ran stairs and we ran stairs in the stadium. So, we’re stronger and ready for anything.”

The summer workouts appear to have paid off.

“A lot of the O-line, we’re looking big!” Kanuch said. “A lot of guys are benching four plates, squatting five plates on squat easily. It’s not just individually but as a unit across the line. I’ve seen J.J. Nwigwe hit five plates on squat, [Austin] Hoyt hit five plates on squat, and I’ve seen [Andrew] Eide bench five plates on squat and bench four plates. I’ve seen Tejan Koroma bench four plates. Everyone is looking strong. Ului Lapuaho is getting strong. He’s close to his four plates and his squats are good. The hogs are coming and we’re bringing attitude.”

Those are impressive benching and squatting numbers by the BYU linemen. However, Kanuch left himself out of the equation. So, can he hit those numbers as well?

“Oh, you know me, without any question! “Kanuch said with a laugh. “I’m trying to train smart and stay healthy. No, I can bench a little over four maybe five plates and squat six, maybe seven plates.

“It’s all about being big and nasty. We’re bringing that old school nasty back to the field and its showing. Even with the new guys it’s starting to show; guys like Quin Ficklin and Jacob Jimenez and others are putting guys down. It’s all about being clean and being mean.”

When it comes to weight room culture, the lineman have taken on a Hulk-like mentality. They want to set the precedent in the weight room, which they feel will lead to greater competition and dominance on the field

“We lift in positions basically,” Kanuch said. “As we go through the racks, the lineman have the first four racks because we’re trying to run it and set that attitude. A lot of times lineman can be quiet, but we don’t want that attitude here. We want that attitude that we run this place. So, we’ve got the first four racks. The strongest get the first rack of the O-line group and then it goes down. The second strongest in the group gets the second rack and so forth, so we group up strength-wise.”

Kanuch gives a group strength rundown on who is where and how each has come up through the strength ranks.

“The first group is Andrew Eide, Parker Dawe, Tejan Koroma, and Me,” said Kanuch. “It will switch everyday depending on how everyone feels that day, so I’ve seen Keyan [Norman] with the first group and so on. Usually everybody gets to the first rack at some point, which has happened with each player.

“Everyone is looking strong, so it’s not the year were only one is looking strong and everyone is trying to get there but are faster and smaller. Everyone is looking strong and everyone is building off each other. I’m excited and everyone should be excited too.”

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