Playing Time for True Freshman OL?

It is not uncommon for talented football prospects to receive playing time as a true freshman at BYU or any other school. With many Cougar offensive linemen recovering from minor injuries this off-season, coaches told one incoming freshman that he might have a shot at playing this fall.

There is no need to panic or start speculating about the health of BYU's offensive line. Cougar coaches fully expect Dallas Reynolds, Travis Bright and Ray Feinga to participate in every aspect of fall camp and to compete with seniors Eddie Keele and Jake Kuresa. With that disclaimer, it appears that the BYU staff is taking precautions to be sure they are not caught short-handed this season.

Last month, pre-season ESPN All-American selection Braden Hansen was set to complete his application for LDS missionary service. Then he received an unexpected phone call from BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall. Hansen was no in any trouble, rather, Mendenhall just wanted to visit with the Alta High School star and his family.

"Well, probably around a month ago I was ready to go on my mission," said Hansen. "I had my papers, and I hadn't turned them in yet. Coach Mendenhall called me into his office about three or four weeks ago, and I went down there and had no idea what he wanted. I was just getting my mission papers filled out and stuff.

"He called me down and said to bring my parents, so I come down with my parents and we're sitting in his office with Coach Doman, Coach Grimes, Coach Reynolds and Mendenhall were all in the room together, and I came in and sat down and said, ‘Okay what's going on?' Coach Mendenhall asked how things were going and I told him that I was ready to go on my mission, and he said, ‘We need to talk to you about that.' I had no idea what to expect."

Coach Mendenhall looked at the status of his offensive line and realized that the team would be better off this season with Hansen on the squad. He also felt that Hansen would be better served from a football perspective if he left delayed his entry into the missionary training center.

"Coach Mendenhall said: ‘Me and some of the coaches were talking, and it's still your choice, but we were talking about it and we want to bring up a couple of things with you. If you leave on your mission in August you're going to come home in August and pretty much miss three years of football because you'll be home so late and with the season starting soon after. We want you to stay and play a year and leave in January after the season to be able to come back in January, that way you'll have ten months to get ready for the upcoming season following your mission.'

"I thought about it for a week and called him back and told him I thought that was a good idea."

Both Hansen and his family agreed the timing might not be beneficial for him, and with the team in need of talented offensive linemen this season, the decision to leave on a mission in January rather than in August seemed the most logical thing to do.

"You might see me on the field as a true freshman playing at eighteen years old," said an excited Hansen. "The kids are all like 25 years old so it will be a battle for me, and that's why I've got to get ready for it, and I'm preparing hard now."

Instead of thinking football in just over two years away because of his mission, Hansen shifted his preparation into overdrive, knowing he could be called upon in only three or four months. He has been working out incredibly hard every day since his visit with Coach Mendenhall and his staff.

"They sent me the BYU program with has all the lifts and everything," Hansen said. "I'm working out with one of my football coaches that was with me throughout the year, so I'm working out with him and then after the lifts he sends me out to the track and has me run and do sprints, gassers and stuff like that."

Hansen's strenuous workouts yielded quick results.

"It's been crazy," Hansen said. "I've never really been the squatting type in the weight room. Just because I've been so big in high school I've never really needed to lift much in order to compete against high school kids. To be honest with you, my squat was only about 250 pounds and I never went over 250 pounds in my squat. I would just do that a couple of time and call it a day, so that's been my biggest thing and I do squats now three times a week and then I go run. Last week I squatted 425 six times, so my squat has gone up way over a 100 pounds. I did it six times and my max is probably around 475-480."

Hansen also improved on his other lifts as well, but he is not as pleased with those results in relation to his progress on squats.

"Right before I started football my senior year I benched at right around 300," said Hansen. "I didn't lift for awhile but right now it's at around 320-330 so I need to get that up a little bit. My cleans are doing awesome. I do 230-240 around six times, and I haven't maxed yet."

Last week, Hansen went down to report on his training to the coaches at BYU. They were pleased with his size and results from his personal summer workouts.

"The coaches said I'm filling out more in the shoulders and neck and said that it looks good," Hansen said. "I'm definitely getting a little bigger and a little taller so hopefully I'll just keep growing. I'm about 6'5" or 6'6" and right after basketball I got down to about 245 but right now I'm 265, so I've put on a little weight since then.

"I report to BYU sometime in June to get started over the summer. I want to get right around 295 and I want to stay that way until the season starts. I'm going to play offensive tackle. The quick feet I have probably come from playing basketball. That has helped me with that a lot I think."

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