Is BYU's offensive line underachieving?
Has the preseason hype worn off?
How good can these guys get?
A glimpse into the psyche of one of the stout ones may provide some answers.
He's still got scars he calls battle wounds from winning the title of BYU football's strongman this past summer. His name is etched with others on a hallowed wall in the weight room.
The scars are dark splotches on the inside of his forearms where offensive guard Travis Bright fastened himself to giant concrete rocks and lifted them up and onto a platform while being timed on June 16.
Bright also had to flip a giant truck tire that weighed nearly 900 pounds. Other events included turning an atlas rock around a pivot, as you'd imagine Sampson did while a captive in the Biblical story.
Then came the truck pull, the car lift — all part of the annual Strong Man Competition put on by conditioning coach Jay Omer and supervised by Van Hatfield, who just finished No. 8 in the World Strong Man competition in Korea.
The blemishes on Bright's arms are a symbol of his supremacy, following in the footsteps of Eddie Keele, Scott Young and John Denney. In the strong man field of 13 players, most all linemen, Bright narrowly edged out offensive lineman Jason Speredon, who finished ahead of center Sete Aulai.
"It was pretty tough, it was meaningful with the guys cheering you on. It was fun," said Bright. "The scar? I can't get tats, so this will have to do. It's kind of nice to be awarded for all the hard work you do all year."
His former coach, Colorado assistant head coach Jeff Grimes once called Bright a man among boys, a physically dominating player who just needs playing time.
Bright is a 6-foot-5, 320-pound starting right guard for the Cougars. Highly touted out of Highland High School in Queen Creek, Ariz., he might be a junior in eligibility, but BYU is just scratching the surface of what Bright can do on the football field.
You see, it took Bright five years to play in his first football game, the opener at Arizona in 2006. His number got called as a starter when Keele went down with an ACL injury to his knee at Boston College last season. He is in his sixth year removed from Highland High.
When he got back-to-back penalties at New Mexico and made other mistakes as a lineman this fall, he recognizes his shortcomings.
On the other hand, he knows he has to grow up fast if he and the rest of the offensive line reaches its potential this season.
"We want to be the best offensive line in the country," Bright said.
Bright's long-awaited playing time took a frustrating path. A three-year starter at Highland, he waited a year after graduation to go on an LDS mission to Detroit.
So, let's think back.
He was in BYU's 2001 recruiting class that included Aaron Francisco, Reno Mahe and tight end Spencer Nead from Ricks College.
Seems like ages ago.
Bright prepared for a mission in 2002, then left to serve in 2003 through 2005. When he got back from his mission, he was injured in a freak accident, doing sumo wrestling in a ring drill with Manaia Brown, breaking his foot as a true freshman. "My foot kind of caught in the ground, both of us were doing our job."
His injury didn't heal properly, so he redshirted the 2005 season.
His first playing time came in 2006 as a sophomore.
Now, almost at the midway point in 2007, he's trying to hold on to his job.
"Nothing is guaranteed, all positions are open," Bright said. "I have Tom Sorenson and R.J. Willing who are more than capable pushing me for playing time."
That's why Bright feels a sense of urgency to polish his game and eliminate mistakes.
"Right now, I'm making a ton of mistakes. R.J. and Tom can come in and take it away — it's definitely competitive out there."
Bright says the Cougar offense is close, very close. "It's all right there. We're doing so good and then penalties get us. Were working hard to get better. It's just little fundamental things like footwork, keeping pads at the right level, finishing plays, being aggressive yet polished."
They have to find a way to keep quarterback Max Hall on his feet, protect him from hits that lead to fumbles — and keep him healthy.
An offensive line as a work in progress?
One thing is certain, scars aside, Bright isn't satisfied. The strongest man admits his weaknesses.
It's a sure bet his fellow hogs up front are not content with themselves either.