Provo • A few years ago, a BYU offensive lineman was nicknamed "Lunchroom" because the 6-foot-2, 360-pound behemoth liked to eat anything in sight, and coaches didn't seem to really care.
Well, that kind of "bigger-is-better" thinking for the guys who do the blocking no longer applies in Provo, as fans will quickly notice when the Cougars open the 2012 season at home against Washington State on Aug. 30.
"Some of our offensive linemen are actually ripped this year," said running back Michael Alisa. "When's the last time anyone could say that?"
No position group in coach Bronco Mendenhall's offseason plan to make the Cougars a leaner, more fit football team has changed more than the offensive line, which collectively dropped excess body fat and added leaner muscle mass under the direction of a newly hired nutritionist, Dan Wilcox, and the strength coach, Jay Omer. Gone are the days of the slow, lumbering, overweight BYU offensive lineman who could get in front of pass rushers and do little else.
"We do look leaner," says left tackle Braden Brown, "and I think it is noticeable. It is going to help us play harder and play faster as a group."
The impetus came from Mendenhall, he said, after a programwide evaluation a few days after the win over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl.
"It came mostly from me," Mendenhall said. "I just thought we could perform better. I thought we could have more stamina. I thought we could be more balanced. I thought we could finish blocks, and I thought we could play as much uptempo as we can.
"Then I thought we would be playing better teams, on the road, as we move forward into independence," he continued. "So that was an area I not only thought was specific to that group, but could be implemented teamwide."
Probable starting left guard Braden Hansen, a senior, hasn't been running with the ones in preseason camp because he didn't meet certain expectations in regards to fitness when camp started, according to offensive line coach Mark Weber. However, Weber said Hansen has made great strides in reshaping his body in the offseason.
"I mean, look at him," Weber said, pointing in Hansen's direction after Friday's practice. "There's a major difference. It's a giant difference, to me. He's done a good job; they've all done a good job."
Hansen, the former Alta High all-stater, said having a nutritionist has been a huge plus. He said his wife, Lyndsey, has "stepped up to the task as far as making me lunch and dinners and planning out meals," and the results have him feeling better than ever.
"I have been here five years, and our bodies look so much different this year than in previous years," Hansen said. "It is a huge change. Guys look good. Hopefully, it will translate into success on the football field."
Already, it is paying dividends off the field. Teammates rave about how good potential starting right guard Brock Stringham looks, among others.
"That's what we are working toward," Weber said. "We have not arrived. But after one offseason, great progress has been made. It was coach Mendenhall's desire. He put forth the actions to change the program, and didn't just talk about it. Then we all got on board."
And out of the lunchroom.
BYU's projected starting offensive linemen
Position Player Year Ht/Wt
Right tackle Ryker Mathews Freshman 6-6/295
Right guard Brock Stringham Sophomore 6-6/290
Center Houston Reynolds Junior 6-2/305
Left guard Braden Hansen Senior 6-6/300
Left tackle Braden Brown Senior 6-6/300