The three-step offensive line

Matt Reynolds

The group that has become the biggest surprise of spring camp has been the backup offensive line. With most of the offensive line starters out for spring, the backup offensive line has performed above and beyond expectations against a deep and very talented defense. That, in turn, had led to the offense's overall rapid improvement in spring camp, and it's all due to three steps.

During spring camp, there are often players sitting out as they recover from injuries from the previous season. Other times, coaches will hold out established players in an effort to protect them from injury.

This spring, most of BYU's starting offensive line is out for one reason or another, but that hasn't stopped a younger group from going out and performing as if they were the starting group.

"Typically when we've had a lot of injuries in spring, the offensive line play drops," said senior left tackle Matt Reynolds, one of the proven starters that is sitting out while rehabbing. "This year, they've been able to really put things together really well. It's been really amazing to see the guys play well considering that Braden Brown is the only one out there that started last year.

"Then you've got Houston [Reynolds] that played a little bit, and "Moose" [Marco Thorson], who played a little bit, but for the most part you have freshman and sophomores running around that are holding their own against a defense that I think is better than last year."

Sure, these younger linemen possess all the normal physical qualities of linemen in years past, but this group has become more of a sponge, soaking up as much knowledge from every source they can.

"Dedication, determination and they are very athletic and very skilled," Reynolds said about what makes the younger linemen so good. "They are very accepting of coaching, probably more so than any other group that I've ever been with. You know, I'm not sure if it was from a lack of desire from years past, I'm not saying that.

"There's just been more focus from the younger guys getting with the older guys and learning from what we have to offer. We've been able to be a resource for some of the younger players, who come up to us every play and ask us what they did wrong, how they can do better, if they saw a different defense than what they were used to. I think that might be one of the biggest reasons why they've seen as much success as they have."

Reynolds has also seen a rather refreshing disposition with this younger group of offensive lineman.

"I think there has been a focus on getting things right on individual periods before we get to team periods, in terms of practice schedule and how the coaches are now coaching, and I'm sure that's contributed," Reynolds said. "That might be one of the biggest - if not the biggest - reason why guys are getting so much better.

"They've got a different perspective with the experience of players. They've got a player's perspective and can hear instruction different ways. Some guys might not understand quite how one player puts it, and they can go and ask somebody else and they put it in a way where it clicks for them. There's just a lot of guys with a lot of experience to learn from, and the younger guys are really taking advantage of it."

With this younger group of pass-protectors and run-blockers, the film room has also been utilized more than in past years.

"We've had more guys watching film this year than I've ever seen," Reynolds said. "We have guys coming in and watching film before coach ever gets a chance to show it to us. We have more guys really dedicated to getting better and learning what they need to learn."

According to Reynolds, new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman is the reason for these changes in how the players prepare themselves.

"Absolutely, the coaches have been more focused on position mastery and getting guys better at their positions, and then through that, influencing the team as a whole," Reynolds said. "There's been a much bigger emphasis on individual time and classroom preparation. Even on the field, there's been a bigger emphasis on individual preparation in learning the techniques and skills to succeed."

The three-step formula for the younger players' progression is simple.

"The way I would probably put it is you have to learn it before you get on the field," Reynolds said. "Then when you're in individual time, you learn how to try it. Then in team is where you really get to apply it and see how it works and see it at full speed to see how it feels. To be able to get those reps as a young player is huge."

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