PROVO — BYU kicks off the season against Washington State in just over a week with some starting battles yet to be resolved along the offensive line. The center and right guard positions remain open with Houston Reynolds (6-2, 305 pounds, Jr.) battling with Blair Tushaus (6-2, 270, So.) at center, and Brock Stringham (6-6, 290, So.) battling Famika Anae (6-6, 312, So.) at right guard.
“I think between the two players battling at each of those positions that we’re going to get great play regardless of who ends up starting,” said offensive line coach Mark Weber. “Each player has his own strengths, but they also have some weaknesses they have to overcome, but I feel good about both positions.”
The competition for center and right guard positions will continue through the rest of the week and maybe up until the final practice before the opening game. Weber will be watching each of the battling players intently — grading each on every detail in order to get the best production possible.
“All I need is production from all five positions, not from just one guy playing one position, but from possibly two guys or maybe more,” said Weber. “We’re going to rotate guys like we always do and might even rotate at the center position, which is something I don’t normally do, but with Blair (Tushaus) and Houston (Reynolds) being so close, I could very well do that this year.”
Weber believes he has 10 capable players he could use once Solomone Kafu (6-3, 305, So.) and Ryan Freeman (6-3, 287, Sr.) get healthy. Michael Yeck (6-8, 288, So.) is expected to provide depth at the tackle position.
Braden Hansen (6-6, 307, Sr.) and Braden Brown (6-6, 300, Sr.) are both expected to reprise their starting roles at left guard and at right tackle, with Ryker Mathews (6-6, 292, Fr.) expected to get the starting nod at left tackle.
Mathews has played consistently with the first-team offense this fall after battling back from a leg injury which kept him on the sidelines last season.
“It’s going well,” said Mathews. “It’s been great seeing so much work at left tackle. I need the reps and I can feel myself getting better and more comfortable every day that I’m out there.”
Mathews isn’t new to seeing significant reps during practice sessions. Last season, he logged reps with the first team throughout the fall practice session and was set to be used as sort of the “sixth offensive lineman” — rotating in at the guard position.
His role was cut short due to an Achilles injury which kept him shelved until this fall.
“I’m so excited to be back and helping out,” said Mathews. “I’m learning fast and I’m feeling all right physically. I’m ready to go and very excited to actually see some time on the field.”
Mathews spent last season taking copious notes from Matt Reynolds, who started for four straight years at left tackle.
“Matt (Reynolds) was so smart about the game and with all the little details,” said Mathews. “He’d notice little things that almost no one else would and just knew every little detail about everything so well. It was great being able to learn from a guy like Matt and I think I’ll be that much better because of it.”
Weber is confident that Mathews will provide solid and consistent play from his position.
“He’s poised, he’s athletic and he’s doing a great job,” said Weber. “He hasn’t seen any game time and that’s when the true test will come, but he’s doing a heck of a job so far and we’re excited to see what he can do.”