By Ryan Hope
BYU”s offensive and defensive lines were hit hard with injuries prior to the 2002 football season, affecting each unit”s performance.
Senior offensive tackle Ben Archibald suffered a compound fracture to his leg in fall practice, keeping him out the entire season.
Redshirt freshman defensive end C.J. Ah You tore his ACL within a week of Archibald”s injury, also keeping him out the entire season.
Both were projected starters and were expected to be difference makers in the trenches.
The Cougars hope the 2003 season will be different along the injury front, and the experience gained in 2002 on both lines will result in success in 2003.
“The loss of Ben really diluted us down,” offensive line coach Lance Reynolds said. “Sickness and injury really hurt us all season long.”
Archibald and senior left tackle Dustin Rykert were the only returning starters for the Cougars on the offensive line in 2002. The loss of Archibald really hurt BYU from an experience standpoint.
The Cougars are losing Rykert for next year, as well as senior guard Ryan Keele and senior guard/tackle Isaac Herring.
Archibald has petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility and if granted, Archibald would help the Cougars immediately in 2003.
“We really don”t know what is going to happen with him,” Reynolds said. “If he does get another year, he”ll be more than ready to play.”
Junior center Scott Jackson and junior left guard Quinn Christensen will return for the Cougars after starting every game in 2002.
Sophomore right tackle Brandon Stephens saw a lot of playing time in 2002 as he split time with Herring. Stephens began the season at defensive end before moving to the offensive line following Archibald”s injury.
If Archibald returns, the Cougars will have four experienced players along the line.
Other returning players with experience are junior Vincent Xanthos, sophomore Hanale Vincent and freshman Brian Sanders.
Xanthos and Vincent saw most of their time at guard, and Sanders was Rykert”s backup at tackle.
Junior Cade McMullin, and freshmen Jake Kuresa, Paul Fisher, Scott Fisher and Rob Robinson all redshirted in 2002.
Twin brothers Paul and Scott Fisher are transfers from Utah, and McMullin sat out this past season after transferring from Ricks.
Returning from missions in time for the 2003 season are Eddie Keele, David Sollami and Kai Jones. Of the three, Reynolds said Keele is probably the most ready to play.
The Cougars are pursuing several highly regarded high school seniors who could make an impact next season if they choose to play for the Cougars.
“The thing we lack the most heading into next season is experience,” Reynolds said. “Aside from our top three, the guys haven”t played much. Its difficult to replace experience.”
BYU”s defensive line will return almost entirely intact for the 2003 season.
Senior defensive end/tackle Jeff Cowart is the unit”s only loss, and the Cougars will add some key newcomers.
“I like what I see for next year,” defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi said. “They”re all good players and I want them to improve and emerge during spring.”
Junior defensive tackles Ifo Pili, Ryan Gunderson and Scott Young all return as well as freshman Daniel Marquardt. All four rotated at the two positions in 2002.
Sophomore Manaia Brown will add depth to the defensive tackle position after sitting out 2002 after transferring from Nebraska.
Brown was one of only two true freshmen who saw playing time at Nebraska in 2001.
Sophomore defensive tackle Nathan Kolbaba and junior defensive tackle Nick Anderson saw minimal time in 2002.
Ah You was on track to return for the 2003 season, but he tore his ACL in a pickup game of basketball, and may not be ready for the season.
Even without Ah You, the Cougars are very experienced at the defensive end position.
Sophomore defensive end Brady Poppinga burst onto the scene in 2002 leading the team with eight sacks while also registering 49 tackles.
“I thought Brady Poppinga came in and really stepped up,” Kaufusi said. “He became a threat out there on the end.”
Sophomore John Denney and junior Shaun Nua also return after seeing considerable time.
Nua finished second on the team with four sacks and Denney doubles as the team”s long snapper.
A fourth defensive end could be sophomore Moa Peaua, who was injured early in the season after seeing playing time in the JV games.
Freshman Judd Anderton will return from a mission in time for the 2003 season, and may work his way into the defensive line rotation.
The Cougars are also recruiting several high school players that could make an impact on the defensive line in years to come.
“I”m excited with all the same guys back,” Kaufusi said. “The defensive line could be one of the strongest units on the team next year.”