PROVO — BYU’s offensive line is young and inexperienced, and is trying to learn a new, fast-paced offense.
Yes, the pressure seems to be squarely on the O-line.
But sophomore left tackle Ryker Mathews said he and the offensive linemen aren’t stressing about the upcoming season.
“Honestly, I don’t think we feel that much pressure,” said the 6-foot-6, 292-pounder from American Fork. “We’re all at BYU for a reason. We can all play football and we all know that. So we just go out and do what we were born to do. We’re working hard and trying our best and that’s all you really can do.
“We’re obviously a young group, but we have the confidence that we can be a great offensive line,” Mathews continued. “With this new offense we’re running, it helps us with the high tempo. Doing everything makes it a lot easier. It’s a lot easier for us to play hard, go fast and not think a lot. When you’re young, and everyone’s learning a brand-new offense, it’s kind of a big thing to have confidence going out onto the field.”
First-year offensive line coach Garett Tujague has instilled confidence and aggressiveness into this group, Mathews said.
“He’s just changing the culture of the O-line. The past few years, we’ve kind of gone out and not been (what) the O-line needs to be — the mediators of the tempo and aggressiveness, the players on the field that everyone fears. He’s helping us getting that mentality back and that confidence in our game and who we are as players. I think that’s the biggest part. He’s changing the whole atmosphere of the offensive line.”
One week into fall camp, Mathews acknowledged there’s plenty of work to do before the season opener Aug. 31.
“We always can improve,” he said. “We’re making good strides, but we still have a long way to go. We’ll definitely need the next few weeks before Virginia to get there.”
Quarterback Taysom Hill is pleased with the O-line’s performance to this point.
“Our offensive line is playing really well. They’ve stepped up and made big plays,” Hill said. “Ryker Mathews has done a really nice job at left tackle, as well as the other guys across the board. But I think Ryker has stepped up and really taken on a leadership role as far as the offensive line goes.”
A few offensive linemen have impressed Mathews in fall camp.
“(Freshman) Brayden Kearsley has great potential,” Mathews said. “Brad Wilcox, who has been doing left tackle with me, has been sticking out a ton. Really, the whole O-line has improved under coach Tujague.”
For the offensive line, one of the challenges is establishing chemistry and continuity among a bevy of young players.
“It’s tough,” Mathews said. “No matter where you go, you have to figure things like that out. It’s almost nicer because you can all grow together and develop together. There are challenges when you have new guys coming in, but as far as I can tell, we’re doing great with chemistry and camaraderie.”
How are the newcomers doing with the new offense?
“Really good, actually,” Mathews said. “We’re all pretty new to it. With all of us being young, most of us are picking it up pretty well. We still have a lot to improve on.”