Cougar Offensive Line Paving the Way

The Cougar offense has shown an ability to beat defenses through the air and on the ground in recent weeks. Much hype has been given to quarterback John Beck and his stable of receivers and running backs. However, without the help of a dominating offensive line, the skill players' accolades would never have materialized.

"The offensive line has been so good this year," said quarterback John Beck, "The time they give me in the pocket and the holes they've been able to open for Curtis [Brown] and Fahu [Tahi] has just been everything you could ask for. Those guys don't get enough credit."

Those of you who have read my thoughts and analysis on the Cougar football team over the years know that I'm a big offensive line guy. I believe that the offensive line is the most important unit on any football team. Productive offensive units may do without an exceptional stable of running backs or wide receivers or even an above-average quarterback, but an offensive unit will never be productive without an exceptional offensive front.

"If the offensive line isn't blocking or getting a good push upfield, opening holes and all that, then there isn't much me or Fahu can do," said Brown. "Last game I didn't have to look for holes, they were there and it let me hit the hole hard which makes it easy for me running the ball. Those guys are doing an incredible job."

I think we have the best offensive line in the conference," said Tahi, "I don't think it's really close to be honest with you. The guys on the offensive line have just worked so hard and have become really good as a unit. It's the type of offensive line you dream about having as a running back."

Another player that is not listed among the offensive linemen but is gaining notice for the job he is doing lead blocking out of the backfield is Manase Tonga. Last game, Tonga saw a lot of reps lead-blocking for Brown and Tahi. "Manase really is like a sixth offensive lineman," said Tahi. "He hardly ever misses a block and having him lead block for me out of the backfield helps us a lot."

Tahi himself has proven to be an effective lead blocker out of the backfield for Brown. "Both Manase and Fahu have been awesome in that role," said Brown. "I have so much confidence in both of them to open holes and make it easier for me."

But like most productive units, the offensive line collectively knows it needs to get better in order to improve and stay a productive unit. "Sure, we're happy with how we've performed over the past few games, but we can and need to get better," said starting center Lance Reynolds, Jr. "In looking at tape there's a lot of things we missed that we can improve on."

"Coach Grimes is a great coach and he's making sure that we're constantly getting better" added starting Right Tackle Jake Kuresa. "We can't be satisfied with anything we've done so far or we're going to fall back. We need to be a dominant unit that consistently breaks the will of whoever we go against."

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has worked to get the Cougar line to impose its will on opposing defensive fronts. The line showed that Grimes efforts have not been in vain as they imposed their will on the Colorado State Ram defensive front throughout the game. "I think we did a good job," said Reynolds, Jr. "We dominated the front for the most part, but we can't sit back, pat ourselves on the back and think it was good enough. We're going against what probably is a tougher defensive front this week in Notre Dame and we have to be that much better."

Two-back, One-back, Wide-splits, Tight-splits

When Robert Anae came to BYU with the Texas Tech offense loaded in his coaching arsenal, it was assumed by most that the Cougars would be going with wide-splits from their offensive line with one back in the backfield and quarterback receiving the ball out of the shotgun the majority of the time. While that has been a formation seen a lot this season, it has not been exclusive or even close to it.

Said Curtis Brown: "I think we've proven to be able to run it down teams' throats and to be able to move it throwing it on every down. Now defenses have to decide which way they want they want to defend us because they'll have a difficult time stopping both [the running attack and passing attack]."

Against Colorado State, the offensive line went with tight-splits and a two-back set for the majority of the ball game and saw rousing success. It does not matter to Kuresa how the offensive line sets up. "We're going to beat you either way," he said. "I think we've proven that. It's a bit of an adjustment going from wide-splits to tight-splits throughout the game, but I think it's a much bigger adjustment for the opposing defensive line. We're doing a great job keeping them off balance."

A Lead Change did an article a few weeks back that revealed the de-cleater contest the offensive line is having throughout the year as they document every de-cleating block they have individually game in and game out. It is a contest that Jake Kuresa took an early lead in, but that lead is now gone.

"Lance [Reynolds, Jr.] is now like a half a point ahead of me or something like that," smiled Kuresa. "But it won't last, I promise you that. That contest is mine. I'll get the lead back starting next week."

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