BYU junior offensive lineman Austin Hoyt split time at right tackle last season with Thomas Shoaf after Ului Lapuaho was lost for the season. So far in spring camp, Hoyt has been taking a heavy dose of the workload as he attempts to lock down a position in BYU’s offensive line rotation.
“I’ve been feeling great this spring and have been getting a lot of reps this spring,” said Hoyt. “I’ve been getting a lot of reps at tackle and have been working a lot there. Coach Empey also wanted me to get more reps at the guard position as well, so I’ve been doing a lot of work at guard also in team and in one-on-one’s. So, yeah, I’ve been getting a lot of work done over spring and it’s been a lot of fun.”
BYU’s offensive line returns all but one major contributor in 2017. Left tackle Andrew Eide was the lone departing player so playing time will be at a premium and position battles should be fierce.
“Right now a lot of the guys who are starting either started last year or got playing time last year, so the one’s are doing really well,” said Hoyt. “The two’s have a couple younger guys who are switching in there. We’ve got J.J. Nwigwe and Jacob Jimenez who are learning the plays and doing well.”
Hoyt laid out the current rotation of players for the BYU Cougars as spring camp rolls on.
“One’s right now are Thomas Shoaf at left tackle, Keyan Norman at left guard, Tejan Koroma at center, Tuni Kanuch at right guard and then me at right tackle,” said Hoyt. The two’s are J.J. Nwigwe at left tackle and Jacob Jimenez at left guard. Austin Chambers plays at left guard with Jimenez at center [as well]. Then Chandon Herring at right guard and Kieffer Longson at right tackle. Leroy Sitake-Tanoai and Addison Pulsipher are working their way in.”
Junior offensive tackle Ului Lapuahao is absent from the rotation that Hoyt listed and it has to do with multiple surgeries he’s undergone to overcome his injuries from last season. Hoyt explained more about Lapuaho’s situation.
“Lui Lapuahao is taking a medical redshirt this year,” said Hoyt. “Shoaf was playing right tackle most of last year and he’s now playing left tackle since I’ve moved to the right side.”
While the personnel may seem set, Hoyt said that BYU offensive line coach Mike Empey isn’t letting up on competition for playing time and starting positions.
“Overall Coach Empey loves competition,” Hoyt said. “He’s telling everyone to work and battle for your spots even if you’re not battling for a one spot battle for that two spot. That way they can make the travel squad. The competition has been really good.”
Coach Empey has been teaching the group new techniques the staff feels will help bolster BYU’s offense in 2017 and going forward.
“We’re doing really, really well actually and everyone has stepped it up in a few areas,” said Hoyt. “Coach Empey has been teaching us new techniques that have been good for us and has helped everyone in their pass-protection and run-blocking. I feel like everyone’s pass blocking is getting really good.
“We’ve focused maybe a little bit more on pass blocking this spring, but I feel like we’ve been pretty balanced. We’re working a lot of zone blocking a lot this spring and that’s been really helpful because we have more of a pocket passing presence in our offense.”
According to Hoyt, the chemistry along the offensive line has been a positive as they break in some new running backs behind them.
“The chemistry is good and I feel like the running backs are doing a great job,” said Hoyt. “Us as linemen are trying to give them a quicker read as far as what hole they should take and which way they should cut. It’s been going good so far.”
As far as blocking for Tanner Mangum, Hoyt says it’s been an exciting experience for him simply because of Mangum’s keen vision and quick release. Hoyt said the work they have put in is to allow Mangum more time to attack down the field.
“It’s been great blocking for Tanner because he has such great vision down field that Coach Empey teaching us that if we can just stay in our blocks long enough he’ll find someone down field,” said Hoyt. “That’s been a big focus for us is being able to stay in our blocks and block combinations so Tanner can find guys down field.”