Had a good chat the other day with BYU offensive line coach Garett Tujague about the progress the offensive line has made since spring camp ended.
Tujague was optimistic, but a bit guarded, as you can read in this report in today’s Tribune about the unit that is under so much scrutiny in preseason training camp.
My biggest takeaway was that the new guys who were either brought in or switched from defense to offense are better than some of the guys who played a lot the last few seasons. It will be interesting to see which 10 guys that Tujague takes on the trip to UConn at the end of the month, and which five guys get to start.
Here are some of the coach’s comments, as well as some comments from guys I think will be the starters on the left side, Kyle Johnson and DeOndre Wesley:
Tujague on the overall progress of the offensive line:
"It has been good. I have been happy. I am not satisfied, but I have definitely been pleased with the progress that we have been making as a position group. Again, huge emphasis we have been making on protecting the quarterback at all costs. That’s something we have been working very hard at.
And still being as effective as we need to be in our run game. So it is a good balance — guys are making huge strides.
The depth chart is changing every day, and are you kidding me? That’s the greatest thing in the world, to have competition. Guys that might have been two year starters, not even going to make the [air] plane to go to UConn.
That’s unfortunate for them, but it is exciting for me as the offensive line coach, because there is good competition."
Tujague on how many offensive linemen will travel to UConn:
"Ten is the plan. We will see what the needs are and stuff like that going into it. But 10 is definitely the plan — guys that can do more. The more you can do, the more you can do, and the more value you have if you can be a guard and a tackle, or a guard and a center, or all five, obviously your stock is going to go up."
Tujague on freshman Tejan Koroma being out there with the ones and whether he’s got chance to play:
"Absolutely. He has absolutely earned that. I think if you go to any room — defensive or offensive — he is absolutely the starting center. So great deal. The guy is battling summer school and he is at his first major college football double-days camp, and he is shouldering it well.
I am really excited. The kid plays hard every single snap."
Tujague on the status of the injured Tuni Kanuch:
"Tuni is making great strides, and obviously the physical nature he brings is unbelievable and almost unmatched by anybody. But I think we are doing a good job of creating that. Again, it has sputtered here and there during camp at running the ball, and that is what Tuni brings.
I hope he gets back soon because that might be another guy who is not on the plane when we go to UConn."
Johnson on how offensive line is looking:
"I think we are looking a lot better. We are working really hard. Coach Tujague is working us hard, and getting all the techniques down. We are going to be a lot more prepared for what is to come than we were last year."
Johnson on not having a starting spot yet and whether it is that wide open:
"I mean, I think so. I am sure that each one of the linemen that we have right now can play at the level. So, it is just whoever wins the spot. A lot of people can play different positions, and it is up to coach Tujague."
Johnson on whether he’s surprised he went from unknown walk-on to eight-game starter last year:
"No. I have worked my tail off to get to where I am. So I believe that I have earned a spot. But it is ultimately up to Tujague, if he wants to change it around. We all trust him. We are all working hard."
Johnson on Tujague saying they should be meaner and nastier and whether that’s happening:
"Yeah, for sure. You guys could probably tell by all the fights we had in the spring. It has kind of settled down more here in in fall. But I believe that is true."
Wesley on whether he’s got the starting spot nailed down:
"No, I feel like there is still competition throughout the line up until the first game. I am not being complacent. I don’t feel like I have it locked down. I feel like my spot could be taken from me at any time, so I am going to keep battling, keep doing the right things, and keep it."
Wesley on the O-line getting meaner, nastier, having an edge:
"Yeah, it is taking place. I mean, I feel like the O-line represents your coach. It is like the face of the guy who coaches it, his persona, his mask. So based off of coach Tujague, he was a nasty guy when he was here, and he instills that in us. So that’s what we want to do."
Wesley on Tejan Koroma:
"He’s doing great. That kid has a good head on his shoulders, is confident in himself. He goes out there and he just plays. He doesn’t let it overwhelm him coming out of high school. I am proud of that kid. He came out and just balled. He’s a really good player."
Wesley on whether he had a favorite NFL offensive lineman:
"No, I was more of a baseball player. I didn’t play football for a long time. Not really. I just picked it up later.
When I was little, Nick Swisher was my idol when he played for the Angels. Everybody said A-Rod and Derek Jeter."
Wesley on his friendship with Kyle Johnson:
"Me and Kyle, we just have a natural chemistry."
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