Parker Dawe is the kind of BYU football player opponents outside the state of Utah like to use as an excuse before and after kickoffs.
He’s old; he’s nicknamed “Gramps.” He’s been on a two-year LDS mission, he is married, he’s a father and he drives a minivan. Oh, no, that’s scary.
In reality, Dawe has worked his tail off, sacrificed a chunk of his life to even earn a Division I scholarship. He finally got one this summer before his senior season, nearly seven years after leaving high school in Pleasant Grove.
Dawe’s actual strength is his humility, dedication, clear mind and undying desire to play.
Dawe is the poster boy for what BYU offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Ty Detmer wants in an offensive lineman. He’s smart, trainable, big and getting stronger. He’s a throwback to the days when Roger French took players and molded them into pass protectors and run blockers. They’ve just had to tweak his nice guy button and make it a mean and nasty switch to be flipped on upon entry into stadiums.
Dawe is articulate in how he describes the transition BYU’s offensive line is making from the Robert Anae era to Detmer. Anae himself was a product of French’s approach in the early 1980s. But when Anae returned to BYU five years ago after two years at Arizona, his “go fast, go hard” approach was a stark detour from traditional Cougar blocking by O-linemen.
“Last year with Anae we had the up tempo go fast go hard offense so we were all about go, go, go,” said Dawe. “There wasn’t any emphasis on clock management or situational stuff. It was just like we were going to smash people in the mouth regardless of the situation. We were just going to attack. That was the mindset.”
Since January, BYU has returned to its offensive roots.
“This year, first of all, coach Detmer is really smart and he understands the game really, really well so his focus in fall camp is execution [of] everything; [creating] the ability to run one play with 10 different looks and execute it perfectly. It is taking time over the ball; getting everyone to have a chance to think of what they are doing and where they are going. It’s about taking time and managing the game.”
The change has taken time, but Dawe said offensive players are eager and happy to learn it. And they like it.
It’s like going from panic and frenzy attack, to an organized, cerebral and well-choreographed system.
“The progression for the offensive line has been awesome,” said Dawe. “In Anae’s offense, we were in attack mode all the time. Now coach (Mike) Empey is on us every play about our technique, making sure we take the right steps, get to the right spot, move to position. We could go to the right people (to block) but if we do it the wrong way, he’s on us about it. Before, we were like ‘just go, don’t think, just go.’ So you’ll see the offensive line playing more fundamentally sound under Detmer and Empey.”
Dawe believes this version of BYU’s offensive line, although comprised of many of the same players, will be better because players will be more physical and back it up with actual strength.
Last year, Dawe’s playing weight was between 290 and 295. Now he’s 305. A year ago under director of performance Frank Wintrich, BYU’s football players departed from a diet of traditional squat lifts — something even Bronco Mendenhall had a tough time accepting out of Wintrich.
But now, under the new conditioning coach brought in by Kalani Sitake, the emphasis isn’t Wintrich’s conditioning but a weightlifting regimen, including every kind of squat lift imaginable.
“We squatted every single day and never missed it,” said Dawe. “If we weren’t doing back squats, we were doing front squats. If we weren’t doing front squats, we were doing other squats.” Those could include overhead, the Zercher, Anderson, Bulgarian split, and one-legged squat.
The squat lift is the cornerstone of building strength and muscle at the core, the largest muscles of the body. It’s been that way since cavemen began hoisting boulders, trees and their mates. It develops the quads, glutes and hamstrings and enhances the posterior chain power in an athlete.
For linemen, the squat lift regime is a mainstay.
“For me personally, I put on 20 pounds and I’m 305,” said Dawe. “I bench in mid-400s and squat over 500 now. For us, it isn’t about the max squat, it is about the reps. I do a set of 405 (pounds) for 10 reps. For me personally, I’ve had a lot of increases with my lifts. I feel a lot stronger, I feel bigger, like I can blow people off the ball, that I can get leverage. I feel like an offensive lineman. I feel like a big strong guy.”
Across the board, Dawe said this makes BYU’s offensive line better at what they need to do.
“I think this year, I would say we are better because we are way more physical. We are becoming technicians. We aren’t just going to go. Last year there wasn’t a ton of footwork. We are big, strong, we’re technical and we are very aggressive, even on the ground. We are shoving all the way to the end of the play. That wasn’t something that was ingrained in us.”
So, when Dawe and others begin talking about BYU’s new offense under Detmer, it begins with the offensive line, a culture, attitude and conversion to detail. It is a transformation that will take time and experience to enhance and improve.
That will come game by game and many more months of weight training to create the bodies needed to do what French got his guys to do back in the day: be dominating at the point of attack; be detailed mechanics with proper technique.
It will be an interesting development to witness.
We’ll know it’s working if opponents gripe and moan about the age of BYU linemen: “He’s got a freaking minivan, wife and kids. …”
Dawe will likely answer, “We’ve heard it all before.”
Then, perhaps, they’ll feel they’ve arrived.