BYU will likely shuffle its offensive line a bit for Friday's game vs. Hawaii
I wrote an article for today's Tribune about how BYU's offensive line the one that was supposed to be leaner, more athletic and better-conditioned has been a disappointment four games into the season. One of the aspects I didn't touch on in the story is that there could be a little shuffling of positions when the Cougars play host to Hawaii on Friday (6 p.m. MDT, ESPN) at LaVell Edwards Stadium. For instance, don't be surprised if senior Braden Hansen is the starting center, replacing sophomore Blair Tushaus. Tushaus, who has struggled since earning the role as the starting center, is listed at 270 pounds, but he looks closer to 240 or 250, and has been thrown around quite a bit by two of the best defensive tackles in college football, Utah's Star Lotulelei and BSU's Mike Atkinson. Look for Famika Anae to get the reps at Hansen's left guard spot, or perhaps Manaaki Vaitai, a junior."This week, we've put different people in different places. I have been playing center the last two days. Manaaki Vaitai has been playing guard, Famika has been playing left guard," Hansen said Tuesday. "I think coach [Mark] Weber is just trying to find the best group that is going to work best together and be solid. We are just trying to figure that out this week, so we will be ready for anything." Hansen said he has played a bit of center in practice, but never in a game. "I did it one spring ball. I did it all summer once. It is a skill set that I want to have. I think it makes me more marketable. This week, Blair was out of practice Monday, so I did it all practice Monday, and then I did it all day today. So we will see what happens." Weber acknowledged that Tushaus and starting right guard Brock Stringham are struggling, and that the loss of Houston Reynolds hurts the line's depth and versatilty. "Well, there have been some struggles," Weber said. "[Tushaus] is a young center and he's battling through some things. So he does some things great. He snaps the ball well, he communicates well, and there are some things we have to get him better at. So his start has been up and down as well like a lot of young players." Of course, BYU's defense has very few question marks right now and is flying high, despite losing defensive tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna for the season with a knee injury; Ziggy Ansah, the former track star, will take Manu's place in the starting lineup. Go here for more on the Cougars' defense, No. 7 in the country right now. Also, here's a column on the return of Norm Chow, Hawaii's new coach, to Provo after he spent 27 years on BYU's coaching staff. And here's some good news for former BYU guard Damarcus Harrison, who transferred to Clemson a month ago. Harrison will be immediately eligible to play at Clemson, the NCAA has decided, waiving its transfer rule. While not making excuses, Hansen acknowledged that the line did not handle the crowd noise well at Utah and Boise State. "It is difficult. It is not impossible. We have played in louder places. We just didn't prepare ourselves for it, I think is the biggest thing. The first couple of games were at home, and the cadence was on the quarterback. It wasn't until before the Utah game that we started working on silent cadence. And it takes a little bit of time to all get on the same page. We didn't prepare right for that, but we've made those changes and we are ready for any stadium with our silent cadence," he said. Weber said the false starts are a result of a couple of factors."Some of that [tough crowds, young guys] is what the case is," Weber said. "We are working on it. And it is a combination of things. It is some youth, it is first-time players playing in loud places. We've got to get the mechanics better." Another glaring mistake the line made was that chop-block penalty that probably cost the offense a touchdown against Boise State. "They called it, so it was a legitimate call," Weber said. "I mean, when the official is out there, and he's looking, and he sees one guy low and one guy high, regardless of how hard the block is, it is a tough one to call," he said.