What do Houston Reynolds, Braden Hansen, Braden Brown, and Ryker Mathews all have in common? Well, all four of them were assumed major contributors to the offensive line just prior to last season with three of them ending up with starting roles.
All four of them are out this spring and it’s readily apparent when watching the offense. Running backs can’t get to the edge on sweeps, runs up the middle are getting blown dead before the running backs can even break the line of scrimmage, and Riley Nelson has almost no time in the pocket.
Yes, it’s ugly out there and Nelson will be the first to tell you as much. The assumed starting quarterback isn’t someone to sugar-coat much of anything and he didn’t sugar-coat the Cougar offensive futility following Monday’s practice.
“I look at the guys I finished the season with last year and they’re all out,” said Nelson. “All of the offensive linemen are out and all of the receivers except for one…you kill for the opportunity for reps and get better in spring and you shouldn’t shrink from it, you should rise to the occasion and we need to fix that quick because we don’t have a lot of time left.”
Nelson went 2-6 for a paltry 15 yards and an interception during team drills with running plays being snuffed out again and again. Offensive lines are usually the catalyst for any offensive success and with the top guys out, they’re struggling.
It’s not all their fault, however. They’re going up against a veteran front seven who recently added three-year starter Ian Dulan to the mix. To say it’s a trial-by-fire for these inexperienced OLs would perhaps be an understatement.
The good news is that all of the assumed starters should be back for Fall with the inexperienced underclassmen gaining some valuable practice experience that should add tremendously the overall quality of depth.
While there remains a lot of questions on offense, the defense appears to be answering a lot of them with every practice session.
I’ve blogged about the inside linebackers before, but it’s a position where BYU looks to be strong going six-deep with Brandon Ogletree, Uona Kaveinga, Zac Stout, Tyler Beck, Manoa Pikula and Uani Unga. All of them have shown capable during games or during this spring’s session save for Unga, who proved a lot of his worth last fall.
Alani Fua has stepped up big time filling in for Kyle Van Noy with Spencer Hadley looking like a duck in water at the Sam linebacker spot.
As for the defensive backfield, Preston Hadley has sat out, but coaches know he’s fully capable of manning the boundary corner spot. Daniel Sorensen and Joe Sampson look to be one of the better safety duos BYU has presented with Mike Hague and Jordan Johnson both coming on strong.
Johnson has particularly looked good and has seen all his reps at field corner with the 1s on defense. He had yet another interception today as Riley Nelson attempted a long pass to the corner of the endzone.
It’s likely that we won’t have answers to many of the questions on offense until fall practices. As for the defense, however, it’s becoming apparent with every practice that they’ll be very good and probably improved over what fans saw a year ago.