Offensive line becomes main focus of practice following week one loss

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During a tough 19-16 loss to Virginia on Saturday, it became clear the play of BYU’s offensive line needed to be addressed. After only one game, BYU Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae has decided to make significant changes up front.

“We’re going to do some shuffling of the line, and we’re going to see how some other guys respond,” Anae said. “We have four guys right now who look to hold their spots…and we only want the best players on the field.”

Taysom Hill stretches out to score a touchdown. (BYU Photo/Mark Philbrick)
Taysom Hill stretches out to score a touchdown. (BYU Photo/Mark Philbrick)

Anae decided to make the biggest change at left tackle where BYU’s only returning starter on the offensive line, Ryker Mathews, has been a staple. Michael Yeck will be moving from right tackle to take over Mathews’ starting role. Brock Stringham will start at right tackle.

“We need to be a lot more physical and throw dudes around,” said Mathews. “Whether it’s a 10, 15 play drive or a three play drive, we got to perform the same every time, no matter what.”

Mathews also mentioned he has not fully recovered from the double hip surgery he received during the offseason, but refused to make excuses for his poor play.

“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.”

Another change up front is the addition of offensive lineman Manaaki Vaitai to the starting lineup. Vaitai helped the Cougars find much needed offense after entering the game against Virginia. He will be starting at left guard and is looking forward to making the most of his starting opportunity.

“I’m excited,” Vaitai said. “I’m excited to get back out there, communicate, and show people that I came here to play. We’re going to rotate and let other guys play too and hopefully put the ball into the end zone.”

With all the changes being made this week, Coach Anae made it clear he will stick with his newly inserted fast-tempo offense. Many criticized the “go fast, go hard” offense following a week one loss to Virginia after many drives stalled quickly, leaving BYU’s defense on the field for extended periods of time. BYU’s offense ran 93 plays, which is high for a college team. While the tempo is where Anae wants it, the execution is not.

“Nothing is changing other than our determination to get better and what we’re doing,” Anae said. “We (need) to have a much harder edge and more purpose when we do things.”

BYU’s offensive line will need to improve in order to have any chance of beating their week two opponent. The Cougars face a nationally ranked Texas team that won their opening game 56-7 and racked up more than 700 yards on offense.

“They have a great front seven; very physical and very athletic,” Matthews said. “We’re preparing our best for it.”

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