Fall Practice Preview: The Offensive Line

With fall practices less than two weeks away, TBS begins its preview of each position. During fall practices we'll be watching each position group intently to see what their strengths and potential weaknesses are. We start with a preview of the big uglies up front.

The Cougars will return some experienced players, coupled with some very promising up-and-comers, along the offensive front. It's a position that was emerging as a strength at the close of last season and into spring ball. With the addition of more depth and talent this fall, we look for this position group to get even stronger by the start of the season.

Strength Inside

Offensive Guards Ray Feinga (6-5, 320 Jr.) and Travis Bright (6-5, 314, Jr.) will be flanking Sete Aulai (6-1, 297 Sr.) at center. Collectively, these three form the strength of this year's offensive line heading into the fall. All three started at the end of last year and will do likewise this fall, and all three have only worked to improve their collective games this past offseason.

Travis Bright finished first in the annual strong-man competition among the entire football squad and has shown the benefits of that strength consistently during the spring and offseason workouts. Bright is a veritable bully on the offensive front, pushing guys around consistently and effectively.

No offensive lineman has made more strides over the past year than Ray Feinga. Feinga has long been considered the most athletically gifted offensive lineman on the team and his play has begun to match his ability. One has to look no further than the one-on-one drills the team runs to observe just how dominant of a lineman Feinga has become.

Sete Aulai, meanwhile, has quietly gone about his business, making correct blocking calls along the line and even audibles for the entire offense. Aulai has a firm grasp of the offense and will be a huge benefit for the offense as he makes correct reads and is solid in his own blocking assignments.

The strong inside guys will likely be joined by tackles Dallas Reynolds (6-5, 328 Jr.) and David Oswald (6-8, 325 Jr.) on the outside at the left tackle and right tackle positions, respectively. Reynolds played consistently at left tackle after Eddie Keele went down for the year early last season, while Oswald took off defending the right side of the line as last season came to a close.

The frontline starters look to be secure for this fall. We'll be watching for any movement and will be reporting who gets playing time with the first unit whenever the occasion arises, although we expect little, if any, movement in the starting slots.

Immediate Impact Guys

Two offensive linemen we'll be watching as close as any are recently returned missionary Matt Reynolds (6-5, 300 Fr.) and junior college transfer Levi Mack (6-5, 320 So.) If there is any disruption in the starting front five, look for it to come from either of these two incoming players.

Reynolds simply will report to fall practices as arguably the most talented offensive line prospect ever signed by the BYU Cougars. The third son of Coach Lance Reynolds has long been considered the most athletically gifted of all his sons and will be showing his wares from the first week of August on. Reynolds has had the summer to get back into shape and has reportedly regained most of his form already.

Meanwhile, Levi Mack comes to camp from the J.C. ranks and, having come from those ranks, will of course be looked at as a possibility to contribute immediately. Due to the great depth BYU has formed on the OL, a redshirt may be an option. Regardless, we'll be watching Mack very closely, as he comes in with impressive credentials and college experience.

Along with Reynolds and Mack is incoming offensive lineman Manaaki Vaitai (6-3, 299 Fr.), who comes in as a true freshman after being named a First-Team All-State selection in the state of Texas' highest class during his senior season. We'll be looking to see what Vaitai can do, although a redshirt year looks likely for the extremely talented lineman.

Solid Depth

As mentioned, the depth behind who will eventually shake out as the starting five looks to be impressive and solid. Each position will be backed up with some very good talent, starting with Tom Sorensen (6-5, 315 So.), who looks to be the first lineman off the bench at the very least. Sorensen will be the primary backup at center and at both guard positions. Look for Sorensen to log a lot of playing time this coming year.

Joining Sorensen as the offensive tackle who will likely be the first one off the bench to fill at either of the tackle positions is R.J. Willing (6-5, 300 So.) Willing saw exclusive reps with the 1s at left tackle this past spring, subbing for the then-injured Dallas Reynolds, and saw steady improvement during that practice session as he got his mission legs back.

Sorensen and Willing are joined by a bunch of redshirt freshmen who will work as primary backups for the starting unit. Players such as Jason Speredon (6-5, 275 Fr.), Nick Alleto (6-6, 275 Fr.), Garrett Reden (6-3, 273 Fr.), Walter Kahaialii (6-3, 320 Fr.) and Rick Wolfley (6-3, 326 Fr.) will work to add depth as they bide their time until they become starters during future years.

Bottom Line

The offensive line is in as good of shape as it's been since I started covering the program six years ago. Prior years saw the offensive front struggling to field an effective two-deep roster, as depth was a major issue. This will certainly not the case come the 2007 season, as the roster is filled with experienced starters, quality backups and very promising newcomers up and down the roster at the offensive line position.

The prognosis for this fall practice session will be for little if any movement among the starting five as they look set. The movement and battles will be waged between those looking to fill the second-string, where as many as 12 players will be battling for a spot on the two-deep roster.

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