The Hulk of BYU

Growing up, every kid has a favorite superhero from comic books, television or the big screen. At BYU, there is one offensive lineman who is so big and strong that his teammates liken him to the huge green Marvel comic book hero.

To some he is known as Travis Bright, to others the 6-foot-5, 320-pound offensive lineman is "The Hulk" and to still others he affectionately called "Hercules."

"It's good to have Travis back," said Jake Kuresa. "He's Hercules. He's like Hercules out there and another big guy who is strong and plays intense out there. He's good because he helps us as an offense set the tone in being physical because he's so strong and physical. He helps us to set the tone for the entire offensive line and everyone else will follow right behind us."

During an ill-fated one-on-one drill last year, Bright was seen writhing on the turf, his face wrenched in pain.

"I broke my fibula and tore the ligaments in my ankle joints and had to have surgery to fix it and then it didn't heal right so I had to have another one," Bright said. "It was just a freak thing I guess. It will be stronger and I'm still doing rehab ever day after practice so I can push off of it when people bull rush and everything. It's coming."

Now back and participating in spring ball, Bright feels his ankle is recovering rather nicely.

"Things are getting a lot stronger," Bright said. "On my ankle I had three surgeries and it's getting stronger and stronger. I'm just getting my footwork back and hitting the weight room.

"Spring is going really good. I'm not doing any of the major hitting right now. I'm just not 100 percent and I don't want to have another season lost, but spring is going really good with learning the new offense. I'm getting back into it with the hogs."

"The Hogs," as Bright called them, are a group of strong, experienced, nasty O-linemen that are doing a lot of cross training as of late. Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes is developing his offensive linemen in various positions for multiple reasons.

"Coach [Grimes] doesn't want anyone just to learn or feel comfortable with one position," said Bright. "He wants to make sure we all know the offense inside and out, so he's been moving us around in different positions. Obviously last year Brian Sanders had to go and play on different sides of the line, so we want to make sure we're able to play different sides of the line. The line, I mean, you've seen the line we're going to have a great year and we have a lot of strength with a lot of these guys returning like Eddie [Keele] and Jake.

"The coaches are keeping me at the guards right now. That's the position I've been playing on both the right and left side. Versatility is pretty much a good word for it. David Oswald is a really tall guy and coaches have put Eddie Keele at the guard position just trying to get that feel out. It's going to be a sweet year for us."

So what's the difference between playing guard and tackle?

"To play tackle, I think you have to be a little faster and little more quick on the edge for the pass rush from the defenses," said Bright. "You gotta be quick to get out on the edge to block some of those guys coming around the edge. I think for guard you have to be a little bit more solid to stop that rush to protect that pocket that has to be there. They're both very important positions and I wouldn't put one over the other."

Senior tackle Jake Kuresa feels the reason for the various combinations at offensive line is to create greater versatility, more unity and overall a greater understanding all across the board.

"I think there are a few reasons for this," Kuresa said. "I think we have eight guys playing and like I have a minor injury that if it acts up then I'll sitting out, and there's a couple guys like that too. With that happening you have to have everyone play in order to have five really good guys out there.

"The second reason is if you know what it takes to play guard it makes you a better tackle. If you know what the guy next to you is doing in more depth, then you understand the concept of five guys working together as one, so I think coach Grimes is helping with understand that.

The bottom line is that BYU coaches want to have their best players on the field at every position and the offensive line is no exception.

"I also think that no matter what Coach Grimes wants the five best guys out there on the field, so if there is one center and four guards that are the five best guys, two of those guys have to learn how to play tackle," said Kuresa. "We are going to have the five best guys out there and we can't have them be one good center, two sorry guards and two good tackles with two back-up tackles not even in the game.

"I'm not by any means saying that is the case, but we have to have the five best guys out on the field, so we have to have everyone prepared to play guard like myself, Eddie [Keele], David Oswald, who is 6-9, has been taking reps at guard and some other guys have been learning to play tackle. It just makes us more versatile and much better as a unit and gives us more options."

Defensive coaches like to rotate their defensive linemen in order to keep them fresh, active and less prone to injury. With BYU's linemen being cross trained at various positions, could this philosophy be on the mind of BYU's offensive coaches as well?

"There is also a possibility of a rotation and that's another reason why we have so many guys playing different positions," Kuresa said. "If someone needs to step in there and play tackle, instead of me going off the field maybe I can step in at guard and give somebody else in there a breather. There are so many advantages to it and there's nothing wrong with it at all. If I can learn how to play both tackle and guard then that makes me an overall better player."

BYU's coaches seem to be experimenting with every combination of players along the offensive line no matter what position they played last season. The Cougar offensive line was extremely tough last year, but according to sophomore defensive tackle Kyle Luekenga they are even tougher and more nasty this year.

"I noticed it last year playing against these guys as a freshman," said Luekenga. "There was a big difference between when I played against these guys and when I played against at Colorado State and New Mexico. Our guys were a lot stronger and quicker and will toss you around like a sack of potatoes.

"The offensive line is strong, experienced and a guy like me coming in like this, because this is my first year of practice like this since my last year of high school, it was just getting used to the speed of the game again," said Luekenga. "Playing against these guys I felt rusty. I felt like my reactions and football instincts were off a little bit, but those things will come back naturally with more and more practice. It's a good experience for me and these guys will help me a lot."

With the amount of talent both currently on the roster and coming in, talent might not be the only thing that decides a starting roll in the trenches.

"We have a lot of talented guys coming back and guys coming in like Tom Sorensen from Vanderbilt," said Bright. "We're going to have a lot of guys that can play this year. Obviously it's going to come down to the best guy and not only physically but they will have to know their position. Coaches can't trust you if you don't know where you're going. It'll be interesting to see who finally does start the season out."


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