clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

BYU football: Coaches encouraged by production, depth of offensive front

PROVO — Any observer of a BYU football practice would have a difficult time determining the starting group along the offensive line, and that's a good thing. At least in the mind of the guy, position coach Mike Empey, who can best assess how the group is doing as a whole.

Empey has been using a lot of guys during fall camp and shuffling his front five constantly with a specific purpose in mind.

“I’ve said since the day I got here that I want 10 guys who are ready to play,” Empey said. “So we’re having guys in that are learning to play in different situations and in practice I don’t want guys going six or seven straight plays in a row. We want guys getting experience and getting as many guys as I can to play — that’s what fall camp is for.”

The good news is Empey feels his group is deep.

“I have enough guys now who are healthy that we can get three units going,” Empey said. “It allows me to get the new guys in a bit, which will certainly help and it creates more of an opportunity, here out in the heat, for guys to get a proper amount of rest between reps.

"When guys get hurt most is when they’re having to play when they’re too worn down, so it’s great that we’re able to get that time between rest for the guys.”

Injuries have beset BYU's offensive lines in recent years, which coupled with already thin numbers, has put the unit in difficult positions far too often. That feeling of being thin is now in the past, as practices see a constant and even furious rotation of players throughout each session.

Senior Tuni Kanuch is one of the expected starters along the offensive front for the season opener against Portland State, although he feels his spot isn't safe due to the emergence of several up-and-coming players.

“It’s all about that competitiveness that everyone is bringing to practice,” Kanuch said. “We don’t have any of those days where guys are like, ‘Oh man, I don’t want to practice,’ because it’s so competitive. If you’re not ready to go on any day, then you may end up watching because someone is taking your spot.”

With regards to the younger players, Empey expressed satisfaction of how they've performed.

When specifically asked about transfers James Empey and Tristen Hoge, he commented, "They're learning and picking things up. They're part of our group that's under development, but we like what we've seen. They're right where they need to be and Hoge — he's ready to go and do whatever we need and he's physically ready, which isn't a surprise."

What Empey is putting out there during practice sessions will change once the team starts preparations for the season opener, however.

“When we start preparing for Portland State — that’s when we’ll taper down to 10 guys,” Empey said. “But we still have some time before that, so we’re going to use that time to prepare as many guys as we can.”

Scrimmages are held during practice sessions in an effort to simulate game situations, among other purposes. BYU held its first scrimmage last Saturday, with coaches coming away generally impressed with the offensive production, which was led by what was assessed a physical and cohesive offensive front.

“I like how they’re battling in the trenches and they’re a deep group,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “We were able to run the ball and throw the ball and it’s usually because the O-line did its job.”

With question marks still surrounding other offensive positions — particularly around the running back and receiver spots — the formation of a productive offensive front is a good starting point for overall improvement.

"We have to lead the way and we're feeling real good with how it's been going," Kanuch said. "We have a long ways to go, but I love the attitude I'm seeing — the nastiness, and yeah, we're excited about what we can get done this season with the guys we got."