BYU shuffles offensive line after Saturday's disaster at Virginia
Brigham Young running back Jamaal Williams (21) fumbles then recovers the ball next to Virginia safety Anthony Harris (8) and Virginia linebacker Daquan Romero (13) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, in Charlottesville, Va. Virginia defeated Brigham Young 19-16. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Andrew Shurtleff)
Well, that didn't take long, did it?
BYU's offensive coaches are already shuffling the offensive line, after Saturday's disastrous showing at Virginia.
"Well, we are going to do some shuffling of the line, and we are going to see how other guys respond," offensive coordinator Robert Anae told reporters after practice on Tuesday night. "We've got four guys right now who look to be holding their spots."
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the only full-time returning starter on the o-line, sophomore Ryker Mathews, has been benched.
Sophomore Michael Yeck will take Mathews' spot at left tackle. Yeck started at right tackle vs. UVa.
Senior Manaaki Vaitai, who had the best game of any o-lineman against Virginia, has cracked the starting lineup and will be the left guard on Saturday.
Sophomore Terrrance Alletto holds onto his spot as the center.
Junior Brock Stringham will move from right guard to right tackle.
As of Tuesday, coaches aren't sure who will start at right guard. Candidates are freshman Brad Wilcox, walk-on Kyle Johnson, Mathews, junior college transfer De'Ondre Wesley or perhaps freshman Brayden Kearsley.
"As of Tuesday, we've got four starters. So we are still looking for that fifth one," Anae said. "That still remains to be earned."
Asked specifically about Kearsley, who made the trip to Virginia but did not play, Anae said: "We are hoping that Brayden will come along and do that, we certainly are. Whether he is that or not this week, remains to be seen."
What's holding the highly touted blocker back?
"Well, there is a lot going in. He's a true freshman. There's a lot of development. And, there's competition. So those things put together are at the heart of it," Anae said.
Earlier Tuesday, Mathews appeared in the interview room and acknowledged that he played poorly and was disappointed in himself in the way he played. I asked him about his health after double-hip surgery last winter, and he said he is about an eight on a scale of one to 10.
"We still don't know yet [if Mathews is fully recovered]," Anae said. "Haven't heard from the trainers, what his condition is. So I am waiting to hear. But right now our starting left tackle is Michael Yeck. Brock [Stringham] is moving over to right tackle, yes indeed."
Anae did not have an injury update on the two starters who will potentially miss the Texas game, receiver Cody Hoffman and linebacker Uani Unga.
He did say that Hoffman has not been cleared to practice yet, after missing the UVa game with hamstring issues.
As for running back Jamaal Williams, who carried the ball 33 times against the 'Hoos, Anae said he's sore.
"He carried a really big load. Obviously, he was a little on the ginger side yesterday, but he pushed through it pretty good. Today, he pushed through as well, but the other guys got the lion's share of the load today, and today was a real big work day. So I am confident in our running backs. We have a really good stable. And whoever is in there, I am confident they will run hard, and they will know what they are doing."
I will post video of Anae's chat with reporters later tonight, or tomorrow. Until then, here's more of what the offensive coordinator had to say today:
"We have all challenged ourselves to put last week's game behind us. I am comfortable that all the things that needed to be said about last week have been said. We are pushing on and looking forward to this upcoming week.
We do look forward to improving ourselves in a couple of areas.
One is giving better protection to our quarterback. And No. 2, better blocking for our running back.
And we need to secure the ball. We had a couple of them on the ground. Luckily we jumped on them, so that's been our primary focus this week as developing ourselves as a group that can not only go fast, but can go hard. That's been our focus."
On what positives he can take from Virginia game:
"Well, I do believe we came away from that game with a little better understanding of who we are. Going into this week, our focus is on that: not who we aren't, but who we are. And I think we can develop into a pretty tough team, running the football. I think we can improve ourselves in the pass game, and include our focus in not just throwing, but catching the ball and protecting in the pass game. So those things I think we bring away from that challenge and our looking forward to this week."
On coach Garett Tujague and Roger French and their relationship:
"Coach French called after the game, and he reminded me of his first game here, in 1980. And it was not as disastrous as that. He said, 'you guys just stay the course.' And that's exactly what we are doing. We are going to stay the course. Nothing is changing, other than our determination to get better at what we are doing, have a much harder edge, more purpose when we do things."
On why the tight end wasn't used a lot:
"A lot of that depends on what you call the tight end. Every formation we have has one of those in it."
On why they didn't throw to the tight end as much:
"Well, maybe we didn't complete it as much. To get the ball throw to you, you are going to have to get open. And obviously, you are going to have to catch the ball when it comes to you. And not have the thing go through your hands. So all of that is implied. We would certainly like to have that at a higher level, no doubt."
On Taysom Hill's progression:
"You know, we are all involved in the pass game. It starts with the offensive line. Obviously, it starts with the snap of the ball. Then the blocking. If you are targeting right, and the protection has a nice, big pocket, and the receivers are open, I really like Taysom Hill as a quarterback. He's excellent. But very few of those things were in place, and we are looking forward to this week having a much better grip on the other 10 guys on the field and what they are doing.
You cannot really judge a quarterback unless that part gets fixed. And we are in the process of doing that. Far from a completed deal."
On the game plan last week and so many interior runs:
"We are going to be who we are. And I think this week we will have a better feel of who we are than we did last week. So tune in. That's all I can say. And I am confident that we will be a better version of who we are than we were last week."
On Taysom running eight times:
"A lot of that is determined by the defense, so when a certain play is called, I am not the one that is putting it ... you know we scheme things. Sometimes they are just called pulls, and other times they are reads, and so I try to strike a good balance and look at the health of our quarterback. Boy, he slugged it out. Tried to avoid running him, running him, running him. We put him in a position to do more throwing, because the upside there is going to be tremendous.
When it all falls into place, everybody will go, 'oh, I see. I get it.' The first game, sophomore year, I am sure there are plenty of wild conclusions.
But tune in. Like they said in the Batman thing, tune in to next week."
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