Vaitai Makes The Switch

While BYU coaches have moved o-linemen around for greater depth, Coach Weber has been doing some tinkering of his own. Today, an up-and-coming offensive guard found out that he has been moved to another position.

Texas First-Team All-State lineman Manaaki Vaitai played offensive guard for high school running powerhouse Trinity High School. Having received practice reps at the guard position while at BYU, Vaitai has been moved over to play center behind Sete Aulai and Tom Sorensen.

"I got recruited as a left guard, and so the whole time I was back home I just tried to get used to how they run their offense up here," said Vaitai. "I was trying to learn how the pass offense works and stuff like that, so I've been going through fall camp at the left guard position. I found out last Saturday that Coach Weber…was going to give me a couple of snaps at center this week, so they moved me there."

Although Vaitai didn't receive any reps at the center position during Monday's scrimmage, he was able to work out with the centers and quarterbacks during the morning practice session and also during the second practice of the day. Playing center is a brand new experience for the big Tongan Texan.

"This is my first practice as a center," said Vaitai. "Not even in high school did I ever play the center position, so this is new to me."

Following the evening practice session, Vaitai asked Aulai for a few tips and some help on proper technique. Aulai was happy to help his younger teammate learn the ropes.

"After practice I asked Sete before he went in for some more help so I could see what kind of technique he uses," said Vaitai. "He showed me how to keep my hips low so that the ball doesn't fly up over the quarterback's head, and how to put more power into the snap so it reaches the quarterback."

Last year many players on the offensive line were moved around to various positions. Coach Grimes mixed and matched players at different spots to help understand what the various positions not only required, but to also create greater backup depth. So how does Vaitai feel about learning the center position?

"I think it's okay," said Vaitai. "My high school coach told me that I would probably be moved to center, so it really wasn't a big surprise to me when the coaches here at BYU moved me. When I came up here to BYU, they left me at left guard, but the coaches wanted me to get some snaps as a center."

Vatai understands that the center position is the leader of the offensive linemen and has greater responsibilities. It not only requires taking care of the ball exchange, but also an understanding of defensive blitz packages and blocking schemes.

"Just going through practice, I hear the centers makes all the different calls and stuff," said Vaitai. "They all have to know where the defense is going and know how to read it so they can make the right calls for the offensive line. That's something you have to learn as a center, which means you have to study some more. It took me a little time to understand what players I need to block at the guard position, so I guess now it's going to take more work to understand everything a center needs to know."

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