The Brigham Young Cougars offensive line probably took more criticism than any other since 2011 ended. How they react to the criticism is more than just an interesting storyline for the 2012 season, it can be the difference between a good and a great season.
Matt Reynolds and, particularly, Terrence Brown caused controversy when they suddenly became very conscientious about their weight, conditioning, and nutrition after their college eligibility was over. Desperate to get an opportunity in the NFL, they got serious about doing the things that they should have done their entire careers at BYU. This begged the questions, “Why weren’t these guys doing this before?” and "How good could BYU have been if they had been this serious in college?"
Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman publicly criticized the offensive line for not being in shape. He explained he wanted to speed up the tempo of the offense, but that wouldn’t work with the current condition of the offensive line.
Both Reynolds and Brown were not taken in the NFL draft. If that wasn’t enough to get the attention of the offensive linemen still in the program, BYU hired a nutritionist. The nutritionist serves every member of the team, but the offensive line stands to benefit the most from personalized diet analysis.
The BYU offensive line will play a key role in the offenses success this season. While that can be said any season, it is particularly the case for 2012. Some underlying concerns and question marks remain about the quarterback and running back positions. Great play from the offensive line can erase those question marks and mitigate the concerns. However, it will take a serious commitment from the offensive linemen to make the effort to do everything possible to be the best they can be.
Once again, BYU has the guys, on paper, to compose one of the best offensive lines in the nation. Three starters return: guard Braden Hansen, tackle Braden Brown, and guard Houston Reynolds. Following spring practices, Reynolds looks to have moved to center, and freshman Ryker Mathews appears to have the inside track to start at left tackle, and sophomore Famika Anae at left guard.
Hansen is the highest rated of the bunch on the NFL draft boards. He is receiving all the pre-season honors that Matt Reynolds was a year ago.
Mathews was very highly touted in high school. He sat out last season with an injury, but should be ready. He has shown the potential to be very good.
Ryan Freeman is one of the final holdouts from the 2006 team. As a true freshman that season, he played a few games at center and could do the same this season, if needed.
In total, BYU has 19 linemen on the roster.
For the last few seasons, the feeling has been that the offensive line has not played up to its ability. Hopefully these 19 linemen will play with more energy and grit due to the changes in the program and after seeing the hard lessons learned by two of their former teammates.
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