Practice Report: New Linemen Stepping Up

Junior college transfer Jesse Taufi and freshman Brock Stringham are both making promising impacts this fall along the Cougar offensive line. Part of an already deep and talented offensive line group, these two players are making their way with promising fall practice sessions, their first at the Division I level.

"It's fun, a lot of fun," said Brock Stringham after three weeks of practices. "The pace, the competition, I love it."

"Fun" isn't a word true freshmen usually use to define practice sessions at BYU or any other Division I school. The workload is tremendous and the practice sessions much more intense than what they saw in high school or, even in junior college in the case of Jesse Taufi.

"The practices are so much more intense here," said Taufi. "Everything is so fast and it's an adjustment to keep up and I'm doing alright, but man, it's tough, but I love it."

The positive attitudes of both players have in no doubt contributed mightily to the early success they're both seeing thus far. While their respective contributions probably won't be seen for at least another year, both players are close to the point where they could help out the team sooner rather than later.

"I like how both Brock and Amo [Jesse Taufi] are progressing and the work they've done," noted offensive line coach Mark Weber. "We have a lot of talent on the offensive line already, but both of those guys could help us this year for sure."

Taufi Cross-Training

Taufi played just offensive tackle in junior college, but so far as a Cougar he has logged time at both guard and tackle with the second-team offensive units. While he's readily familiar with what it takes to play offensive tackle, he's had to take note on how to play offensive guard.

"I just try and do whatever Ray Feinga does," said Taufi regarding what he's doing to learn his new position. "That guy is so good, it's incredible. He's a beast and just kills guys. So yeah, I'm trying to be like Ray Feinga out there, which isn't easy."

At a glance Taufi has similar makeup to Feinga, in that they're both tall and have very large wingspans that help them with leverage in their pass blocking. Coach Weber has noted another thing that has allowed him to work Taufi at both offensive tackle and at offensive guard.

"Amo is a very bright kid," said Weber. "He catches on with what we're doing very quickly and he's a hard worker. He's doing good at doing what we ask of him. It's not an easy thing to learn a new position, but he's getting it done and I like what I've seen from him so far. He‘s very fast and athletic for his size and he's going to do some good things here if he keeps working."

For Taufi, the challenge of playing offensive guard is the expanded blocking assignments that come in the line's interior.

"At tackle you just lock up with the defensive end and know that you're going to block him every time," explained Taufi. "At guard you're looking around everywhere just looking who is coming off the edge, up the middle, who is stunting. There is a lot more reading that goes on at guard."

Stringham Hanging Tough

Brock Stringham meanwhile has been making his mark at right tackle with the second-team offensive unit. Stringham has shown good size and athleticism, but most of all it's his toughness that has impressed Coach Weber.

"He's a very tough kid and he tries hard every day," said Weber about Stringham. "He needs to add strength and that will come, but I like his attitude. He's tough and he works hard, which he showed last Wednesday in the scrimmage."

Stringham is learning from some pretty good talent ahead of him and is taking careful notes.

"Just watching and learning from guys like Matt Reynolds and David Oswald is a big blessing for me," said Stringham. "Those guys are great and they help me a lot. I'm just having so much fun because I love football and I love competition and I'm getting a lot of it so far. This is seriously the most fun I've had playing football."

Growth On and Off the Field

Incoming players are set to experience a lot of growth personally as well as athletically during their time at BYU if they are to flourish in the program. So far both Taufi and Stringham have both experienced some great growth already.

When I asked Taufi how he's grown as a player, I wasn't expecting or looking for the answer he gave me.

"I know it sounds weird, but just being with this team on and off the field has really strengthened my testimony," said Taufi. "It's great to be part of a team that holds the values I have, and in just three weeks I've really felt my testimony grown and I feel I've become a better man just by being part of the program and doing what this program asks."

Taufi also has some family and friends within the program. Most notably is his first cousin and defensive counterpart Russell Tialavea, who he battles during most practice sessions.

"It's fun," said Taufi about going against Tialavea. "We're always talking a little trash. We have been like that since I can remember and we laugh about it in the locker room after. I know that Russell has changed a lot of things here in his life lately and we're both growing a lot this year as football players and as people."

For Stringham, BYU is everything and more that he expected it to be while he was being recruited.

"This is the only place I really ever wanted to play and attend school," said Stringham. "And it's every bit as good as I thought it would be, probably even better than I thought it would be so far. It's such a huge blessing for me to be here and to be part of this program. As an LDS kid this is all I need. BYU has everything. Great football, great environment, great academics. BYU has it all and I couldn't be more happy right now."

Practice Notes

-Quarterback Austin Collie got some reps under center once again and threw a touchdown pass of 20 yards to Michael Reed. Collie also completed a 10-yard pass to O'Neill Chambers on the run.

-The scout teams are being sorted out with, Tucker Lamb playing running back and Stephen Covey playing quarterback. The scout team defensive unit consisted of Shiloah Te'o, Brannon Brooks, Travis Uale, Cameron Comer, Tana Uyema, Ryan Love, Jefferson Court, Shane Hunter, Dustin Graham, Kyle Luekenga, Solomone Kafu, Jeff Bell and Victor Unga, among other players.

-Head coach Bronco Mendenhall was has been impressed with his scout team so far. "The best one so far since I've been the head coach," said Mendenhall about his scout team. "I think it's just because the program is reaching more maturity where we don't have a lot of the issues as having older players on scout team. Most are younger players who are just anxious to play."

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