The outside of the Cougar offensive front should prove to be consistent and hopefully dominating with the return of Dallas Reynolds at left tackle and David Oswald on the other side of the line. Both players started throughout last season and put in some solid work.
Dallas Reynolds provided solid play throughout the year at the critical left tackle slot, dominating conference play by giving up nary a sack. Regardless of Reynolds' success last season, there are many who have voiced concerns over his play following his performance in the Las Vegas Bowl, a game in which he had to play through a high ankle sprain.
Reynolds is the top option for the Cougars at left tackle and should prove to be as solid as any offensive lineman as the 2008 season wears on. With three years as a starter under his belt, Reynolds is experienced and capable of protecting Max Hall's blindside.
On the other side, David Oswald provided good play and was very consistent coming out of spring practices. During those practices he worked to improve his game and even prompted defensive standout Jan Jorgensen to comment on how much better the assumed starting right tackle was playing compared to last season.
An Interesting Mix
Who will play behind both Reynolds and Oswald is the question that has yet to be answered. Nick Alletto and Stetson Tenney look to be the primary options at backup tackle as fall practices near.
Should Garrett Reden recover effectively from his injury, he'll likely be the top replacement option at tackle for the coming year. Both Alletto and Tenney received good experience this past spring while playing primarily with the 2s on offense.
Good at Guard
At guard the offensive front will be led by assumed starting left guard Ray Feinga. Feinga is generally regarded as the top talent the Cougars present on the offensive line, and after two years as a starter he looks to finish up strong.
The right guard position holds some intrigue, as there is some uncertainty as to whether or when Travis Bright will be ready to take back his starting spot after a leg injury sustained during the Las Vegas Bowl last year. Bright will almost certainly play next season, but when he'll be able to return at full strength is currently unknown.
In Bright's absence, the coaching staff worked to groom Matt Reynolds at the right guard spot as insurance should Bright not return to form. At the very least, Reynolds should provide an adequate backup option behind Bright. Matt Reynolds is a top talent whose progress will be monitored closely by all, as his prospects are exciting.
Offensive line coach Mark Weber looks to utilize R.J. Willing in a variety of roles. Willing has been seen manning most every position along the offensive front and will likely be the top option off the bench for at least two offensive line positions: center or tackle on either side.
Jason Speredon was switched to the inside from his tackle position during the spring, and his progress will certainly be of note, as will the progress made by Jesse Taufi. Taufi is a junior college transfer who could be making an immediate impact on the offensive front this coming season.
Terrance Brown has returned from his mission after breaking the two-deep as a freshman before his mission service. Brown most likely won't be ready to contribute this coming year, but should add valuable play in the seasons to come.
Sure at Center
While he's not necessarily a returning starter, the Cougars feel very secure with Tom Sorensen manning the starting center slot - and with good reason. Sorensen started as a true freshman for Vanderbilt before his mission and saw good time backing up Sete Aulai a season ago. There are few, if any, concerns surrounding Sorensen's play as the season approaches.
All Eyes On
With the starting spots in little doubt, we'll be watching for who will work to be the primary backups this coming season. The prospects surrounding Matt Reynolds and Jesse Taufi in particular are exciting, and we'll be noting their progress throughout the practice session.
We'll also be watching and noting any player movement from offensive tackle to offensive guard, or vice versa. A lot of players on the roster seem apt to man either position, and players such as Matt Reynolds and Jason Speredon look to be the two most likely players to switch over from their guard positions to tackle.
We'll also obviously be noting the return of Garrett Reden and Travis Bright from their respective injuries. Should both players be able to regain their form in time for the start of the season, it will go a long way in establishing good depth at each position along the offensive front.