Provo • Of all the questions surrounding the BYU Cougars as they entered fall camp three weeks ago, those involving the offensive line were probably the most difficult to answer.
In a lot of ways, they still are. For instance, which five guys will start Saturday in the season opener at Virginia?
That won’t be known for sure until the school releases its game-week depth chart, perhaps on Monday.
However, starting quarterback Taysom Hill said Wednesday he likes what he has seen, so far.
“Our offensive line has gotten quite a bit better from spring until the first part of fall camp until now,” Hill said. “They’ve played extremely well at times, and at times we need to get better. But as a whole, I trust those guys in front of me. They’ve been playing really well as of late. And I am confident and comfortable with those guys in front of me going into Virginia.”
By all indications, sophomore Ryker Mathews will start at left tackle, junior Solomone Kafu will start at left guard and sophomore Terrance Alletto will be the starting center. The right side of the line is more difficult to predict: Junior Brock Stringham seems to have the edge at right guard over several others, while juniors Michael Yeck and De’Ondre Wesley battled most of the camp for the starting right tackle spot.
“They are doing a very good job, as a young group, of adapting,” offensive line coach Garett Tujague said last week.”
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall once said that Iona Pritchard, a fullback from Bingham High, had the potential to make Cougar fans forget about one of the best fullbacks in school history, Manase Tonga. But Pritchard suffered a season-ending leg and ankle injury during a fall camp scrimmage in 2011 and was forced to redshirt that year.
He played in all 13 games last year, and started four, but had just 13 carries for 39 yards and did not catch a single pass out of the backfield, which was one of Tonga’s specialties.
Will Pritchard live up to Mendenhall’s billing in 2013? Running backs coach Mark Atuaia said the redshirt junior has looked good in camp.
“We do a lot of things with our H-back,” Atuaia said. “It is analogous to what we used to do with our [fullback] back in the day. So he’s doing a lot of those things, and he is doing really well at it.”
No featured back?
Sophomore running back Jamaal Williams said last week his goal is to rush for more than 1,000 yards this season and score at least 12 touchdowns. But that could be difficult, because Williams might not get enough carries. Atuaia, a former BYU running back, wants to spread the carries around a bit more, saying the days of having a “featured back” might be a thing of the past.
“That’s going to be the main thing with all of the players on offense,” Atuaia said. “We have guys who can go and execute what we want. And right now, that’s the culture that we have on our offense, and it is working good for us.”
According to the website VegasInsider.com, BYU is a 3-point favorite over Virginia on Saturday. ... After taking Sunday off, the Cougars will practice in the afternoon Monday, although school doesn’t start for another week.
BYU at Virginia
P Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT
TV • ESPNU