Offensive Line Adjusts on the Fly

The most physical place on the football field is, without question, down in the trenches where offensive and defensive linemen butt heads. That fact is evidenced by the never-ending list of injuries suffered by Cougar linemen this season. How tough has it been? During the last five games, BYU has not fielded the same offensive line in two consecutive contests.

"Hardly anybody is where they were when the season began," remarked starting left tackle Dallas Reynolds. "Beginning the season, we were set solid at each position, but as time has gone on, we've rotated around a bit."

Starting in August, the offensive line had Eddie Keele at left tackle with Dallas Reynolds opposite of him at right tackle. Jake Kuresa was set to start at one guard position while Travis Bright, Ray Feinga and Tom Sorensen were battling it out at the other guard slot. Sete Aulai was the center, although he would have to battle Sorenson for the job.

Seven games into the season, Reynolds is playing in place of Keele at left tackle and Jake Kuresa and David Oswald are at right tackle. Travis Bright, Ray Feinga, true freshman Ryan Freeman and Jake Kuresa all rotate at the guard positions with Sete Aulai holding down the starting center spot.

Due to season-ending injuries to Tom Sorenson and Eddie Keele coupled with a very an injury to Kuresa that left him gimpy up until last week's game, the offensive linemen had to be ready to play any position. The constant shuffling made life difficult but the Cougar offensive line has learned to adapt.

"It's made it more flexible and in the long run it will make us that much stronger," said Reynolds regarding the transitory state of the 2006 Cougar offensive line. "If someone goes down we're learning that we can switch positions, move around and still be an effective unit."

The Most Critical Position

The left tackle is assumed to be the most critical offensive line position for teams with right-handed quarterbacks because he protects the QB's blindside. Reynolds did not go into the season planning to play the position, but when Keele went down, the second oldest Reynolds brother stepped in.

"It was pretty difficult starting out, I mean, you can't replace an offensive lineman as good as Eddie Keele, so yeah, it's been a challenge," said Reynolds. "Fortunately I have a great coach in Coach Grimes and teammates who have helped me a lot. I feel that I'm getting better with every game and every practice."

Reynolds is also helped by Keele himself.

"Just watching film on what [Keele] has done in the past helps a ton," said Reynolds. "Just being the type of leader that he is has been a great example to me, and I'm just trying to fill his shoes, which are pretty big."

Down the Stretch

Every game this season has seemingly left at least one starting BYU offensive lineman on the sidelines from Keele to Aulai to Kuresa to Feinga. The merry-go-round of personnel has hampered what Coach Grimes and his unit are able to do. Now, after a bye week to recover from lingering injuries, the offensive line seems again set to dominate down the stretch.

"You never know what is going to happen," said Reynolds. "It's football and guys go down. You never want to lose anyone, but having to make the adjustments we have so far this season, we'll be that much more able to meet those challenges if they come up."

Of course the architect and crisis-manager of the Cougar offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the offensive line's success in the face of injuries that have forced changes on almost a weekly basis. Coach Grimes has had his work cut out for him so far this season, but he has responded by fielding a productive unit game in and game out.

"Coach Grimes is a great coach because he's a player's coach," said Reynolds. "He's real good individually with all of us so we all feel comfortable talking to him. He really knows his stuff, and he's confident which I think reflects on us.

"He walks you through everything. He doesn't leave any detail out and we really respect him. To me coach Grimes is the ultimate source and is the primary reason why I'm at where I'm at today as a player. It makes it all that more easy to undergo the adjustments we've had to make with a coach so competent as Coach Grimes."

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