Fall Practice Preview: Offensive Line

A good, talented and experienced offensive line is essential for any offense to be successful. This is very good news for a Cougar offensive unit that will enter fall practices with a lot of question marks at some key positions but not on the offensive line. G-man previews the offensive line and what fans can look for once fall practices begin.

Bodies were few and far between during spring practice at offensive line, as injuries and other factors led to the team not being able to field much more than a one-deep with three of four backups during most practice sessions. That certainly won't be the case come fall practice, with at least 15 and as many as 18 available bodies ready to work for offensive line coach Mark Weber.

They'll be led by a core group of six very experienced offensive linemen who have all seen starting experience. With other positions fielding players that haven't had near that much experience, it will be a huge boon to them and the entire offense to be able to operate behind such an experienced and talented group as the offensive front should prove to be.

Formidable Five

The starting five was all but set coming out of spring practices, although there are still some question marks at the center position. Terence Brown will enter fall as the leading candidate to start at center, although that could be subject to change.

Matt Reynolds (6-6, 329 Jr.) will lead the group as a two-year starter at the critical left tackle position. Reynolds has been on top of his game since his freshman year and should prove to be even better this season with two years starting experience behind him.

Reynolds is not only regarded as the team's best offensive lineman, but as the best NFL prospect currently on the roster. Having his talents available at such a crucial position as left tackle will be a huge benefit to the offense and its success.

Locking down the right tackle position will be Braden Brown (6-6, 280 So.), who switched over from tight end last season to not only play but start on a couple of occasions. The success of position switch was remarkable given his scant experience playing at the tackle spot.

Now that he has fully entrenched himself as an offensive lineman with a spring practice session behind him, Brown should prove to be a very solid performer opposite Reynolds.

Terence Brown (6-3, 340 Jr.) will start, although it's unclear exactly where he'll start. Odds are that he'll be playing center this season, as he came out of spring as the lead candidate at that position.

Terence Brown was a solid starter at right guard for the team last season, and if the best combination doesn't dictate that he'll take the center spot, then he'll resume his spot at guard. Fortunately for the offensive line, Coach Weber has done his due diligence in cross-training each of his players so that he can get his best combination of five players out on the field, and Terence Brown certainly looks to be a part of that group.

Braden Hansen (6-6, 300 So.) came to BYU as one of the more highly regarded offensive line prospects ever signed, and has done nothing to dispel that through his play as a freshman last season. Hansen is a lock to start at the left guard position, but may be moved over to center, where he saw a lot of reps during the spring.

Nick Alletto (6-6, 329 Sr.) has quietly gone about his business in becoming a very solid performer in his own right. Having started at right tackle a season ago before getting injured, he looks to move over to replace Terence Brown at right guard should Brown start at center.

These were the starting five linemen during spring ball, and it's very likely that they'll hold as the starting five throughout the season. It's a great luxury to have five starting linemen with previous starting experience in order to bring stability and consistency to an offense.

Main Backups

There will also be a steady group of capable backups that will vie for starting spots while almost assuredly earning themselves spots on the two-deep roster. It's very important to have quality depth at the offensive line position, and the Cougars will have exactly that.

Marco Thorson (6-3, 321 Jr.) will lead this group of capable backups nipping at potential starting roles, as he's played a key role primarily as an interior lineman during the past two seasons. He'll likely be one of the key subs throughout the year backing up at least one of the guard positions and center, although he has filled in at tackle on occasion.

Jason Speredon (6-5, 313 Sr.) has been beset by a steady stream of injuries since joining the team, which has been unfortunate. When healthy, he's proven to be a capable performer that could fill in at either the guard or tackle positions.

Although he's yet to compete much in practices, I'm including Houston Reynolds (6-2, 302 Fr.) with this group, if only for his last name. After all, if he follows in the footsteps of his brothers Matt and Dallas, he could make some immediate contributions as a freshman. Houston could shake up the starting five if he proves capable at his expected position of center.

Ryan Freeman (6-2, 280 Jr.) will round out the capable backups, as he's seen quality time in each of his first two seasons on the team. He'll be used primarily to backup the guard positions while competing for a starting spot this fall.

Brad Wilcox (6-7, 265 Fr.) received rave reviews during spring in his first practice session following his mission service. He certainly looks to be a primary backup at tackle during his first season in the BYU football program, which is a good spot to be in as a true freshman.

Fresh Off of Missions

Some exciting talent returns off of missions to join the team this fall, and will be competing for spots on the two-deep roster.

This group is likely to be headed by Walter Kahaiali'i (6-4, 305 So.), who broke the two-deep roster as a redshirt freshman when he saw extensive action backing up Rey Feinga in 2007. Having been only 17 years of age when he entered BYU's program, he should be raring to make an impact following his mission service.

Manaaki Vaitai (6-3, 300 Fr.) showed very well while playing on the scout team as a true freshman in 2007 before leaving for his mission. Having a year of practicing with the team under his belt should help his adjustment with coming home and getting into football shape again.

Michael Yeck (6-8, 262 Fr.) left immediately for his mission out of high school and will be competing for the first time this fall in what will almost assuredly be one of the two tackle spots. Yeck fits the profile of the big, long, lanky and athletic type of offensive linemen the coaching staff is looking to bring into the program.

True Freshmen

A trio of true freshmen in Manu Mulitalo (6-3, 305), Blair Tushaus (6-2, 270) and Jordan Black (6-7, 260) will all be looking to make an immediate impact during their first year on the team. Mulitalo will most likely compete at the guard position, Tushaus will be ticketed for work at center or guard, and Black will play tackle.

Overall, this should prove to be the best shape the Cougar offensive line has been in for quite some time. There is quality starting experience followed by quality backups, as well as some very promising young talent entering the program to take off where the others leave off.

For all these reasons, the Cougar offensive line certainly looks to be the strongest position group on the entire team, which will aid the development of new quarterbacks, tight ends and running backs tremendously. The coaches have done a brilliant job along the offensive front in recruiting and then developing the talent they have at their disposal.

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