Monday may have been the start of the third week of fall camp for the BYU football team, but it was also the three-week mark until the Cougars open their season — during a pandemic no less.
The Cougars — the only team left in the west ready to play — are set to open the 2020 season in Annapolis on Labor Day, when they go up against Navy.
While the players have shown they are mentally ready to play, offensive line coach Eric Mateos doesn’t believe his Cougars could be ready to pull it off just yet. The mental aspect is one thing, but he’d like to see the players get in better shape.
“I think we still need these last three weeks of camp to play ourselves into playing shape, be able to sustain drives — those are the things I look for from my perspective, just from my unit,” Mateos said. “I think right now we could play a 9-10 play drive. I don’t think we could go 12, 14.”
With three weeks left to get the team game-day ready, it seems no other group is better prepared than the offensive line.
Last week, coach Kalani Sitake and players boasted about how the offense, led by the linemen, outperformed the defense. And it seems that's how Week 3 of fall camp has continued.
The breakout performance by, specifically, the offensive line can easily be attributed to the amount of experience the group brings back with several returners.
The experience the group brings in to this season, Mateos said, is priceless.
“I could not imagine being in a position with the offseason that we had to have to go install an offense to new guys, to new starters, to new people,” Mateos said. “As a line coach, I appreciate it.”
Through fall camp, as well as working on conditioning, the offensive line has also focused on physicality. So far, his players have gotten bigger and tougher, but what Mateos really hopes to see from his group is a physicality led by desire.
“The desire to hit people in the face and run through blocks; not stop your feet on contact,” Mateos said. “The body’s natural reaction, when you play offensive line and you play with your back to the ball … when you make contact with somebody, you feel somebody, you want to stop your feet a little bit. And I think the desire to play physical is being able to run through blocks and to want to finish people.”
Sophomore Tyler Allgeier played both sides of the ball last year, contributing as linebacker and running back, but has been seeing most of his action on the offensive side this time around.
During the offseason, Allgeier has been working on his speed. While he considers himself an inside runner, he's worked on his speed so he can still contribute on the outside.
Even without such a strong O-line, Allgeier said the rest of the offense would continue to give it all they have, but the linemen have certainly made it easier.
“They’re the ones that start everything, so if they bring the juice, we’re going to bring the juice right behind them, especially when we’re running the ball,” Allgeier said. “So, if you see them moving down the field, we’re for sure going to give it all we have. … We, for sure, have a lot of leaders on the O-line. We’re very grateful for them.”