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BYU football: Austin Hoyt fending off strong competition along the offensive front

PROVO — BYU offensive lineman Austin Hoyt has filled out nicely since first signing on with the program as part of the 2012 class, both his level of play and with his overall strength and body weight. Turns out that improved strength goes a long way in achieving a high level of play for any offensive lineman, which is one of the reasons the Ione, California, native is finding himself starting at right tackle as fall camp comes to a close.

Hoyt was hounded by the media following Monday's practice, and really didn't know what to do with all the attention, asking, "Do I just talk? I've never done this before," prior to answering questions about his development and how he's risen to take one of the two tackle spots.

"It's going good," Hoyt said when asked about his battle for the starting spot with freshman Kieffer Longson. "I'm just working hard to get that starting spot, and yeah, it's going well."

Indeed the battle isn't quite over in Hoyt's mind, and he'll likely benefit from the mindset, as Longson, a former 4-star prospect from San Ramon, California, keeps nipping at his heels.

Hoyt signed with BYU as a then-slender 6-foot-7, 240-pound offensive line prospect before spending his first season running with the scout team. He then embarked on a two-year LDS Church mission to Denver before returning in time for the 2015 season. He played throughout his first season back and started two games. He then played in all 13 games in 2016, starting two, leading up to preparations for the 2017 season.

So far in, those preparations have gone well, as Hoyt has been able to fend off the fast-rising Longson, who has also impressed during most practice sessions. Hoyt said he's done as much by practicing consistently while adding some necessary size and strength, as his relatively slender 240-pound body is now a distant memory.

"I was really skinny when I first got home from my mission," Hoyt said. "But now I'm up to 305 (pounds), and I've been able to keep it on pretty well. So I haven't had any problems with that since."

Hoyt credits getting married as a big help for his weight gain, along with a good weight and conditioning program.

With the added weight Hoyt has been able to play more physical, although he says playing as much isn't necessarily his main focus.

"Working on technique is something that (offensive line) Coach (Mike) Empey talks about a lot," Hoyt said. "It's making sure (our technique) is going well and making sure we're getting (out) well on (defensive linemen.) So those are the things he stresses."

Also stressed currently by coaches is improving the offensive line's overall pass protection. During the last scrimmage, the defensive line wreaked some havoc on Hoyt and the rest of the O-line, but they've been working hard to clean up any and all issues.

"We had a couple of small errors," Hoyt said of the offensive line's last scrimmage performance. "So we're just continuing to work on technique — working on big punches and staying lower. Those are the big takeaways we had from the last scrimmage."

The offensive line, along with the rest of the offense, will get a chance at some redemption when the team holds an open scrimmage Thursday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The scrimmage starts at 10 a.m. and is open to fans hoping to catch a preview of this year's team.