Last Wednesday the Cougar football team met in LaVell Edwards Stadium for a scrimmage. The starting offense performed very well, with the offensive line becoming more and more comfortable with its new assignments.
"We're picking things up and we're really starting to really figure this offense out," said Ryker Mathews. "In the first series we played, we had three plays with two 10-yard runs and a big 60-yard pass. We're still figuring things out and we still have a lot of things to correct. We still have a lot of work to do but we're coming along."
The biggest advancement the offensive line has made is in its
understanding of the new scheme. It's much more simplified this year.
"Just everything is starting to come together," Mathews said. "At the beginning of camp last spring, we didn't really understand how the offense was supposed to be ran and how the run game was suppose to be run. We're still kind of in the mindset of running the ball from last year and they're two completely different techniques that you're supposed to use. We're starting to get there."
In the past, BYU's offensive line blocked based on what calls the center made. This could be a problem if the defense shifted at the last moment after the center made the read and barked out the line call.
"The biggest difference is how you're supposed to position your body against the man you're blocking," Mathews said. "Last year it was big on just staying square and stay in front of your guy, but now it's a lot more getting in his neck and forcing him to go one way. It's more zone this year than it is last year, where last year was more designated."
This makes the play up front much simpler by removing much of the guesswork regarding who to block based on a defensive formation. The linemen know where the play is going, and with that understanding, they know which man to block.
"I think it's easier this year than it was last year as far as scheme-wise," Mathews said. "It's basically step left, step right, and whoever's in your path you take. For the most part it's been simplified, and that's the big thing with the high-speed offense. I mean, the less you have to think, the more you can just focus on go, go, go. You can just go and don't have to stop at the line and make calls at the line. You can run up to the line, the quarterback gives you the call, and you don't have to think. You can just go, knowing who you have to take."
Last year the linemen had a specific player to block based on the play call. This year it's based more on blocking the man at the position where you're supposed to be.
"That's basically it," Mathews said. "I mean, it sounds simple and it should be, but it's obviously collegiate football and it's tough to do. We're starting to pick it up nicely."
The players’ blocking technique have changed as well.
"Our steps are kind of different," said Mathews. "I don't know, it's kind of hard to explain without being able to actually physically show you. Our steps are different, especially our first step. It's changed a little bit and kind of what we have not been learning the past couple of years."
Developing muscle memory that will allow the new blocking technique to become a natural process is the biggest issue for the linemen at this point in time. It's now a case of consistently doing what Coach Tujague expects rather than reverting back to what became natural under Coach Weber.
"It's coming along and we're figuring it out, especially the first-team o-line,” said Mathews. “We're starting to buy in and we're starting to get things down as far as technique down. We'll still need the next week leading up to Virginia to get in as much work as possible."
Last week after the scrimmage, Mathews said that if BYU and Virginia were to meet then, the Cougar offense would be ready to go.
"I would say that and I have confidence that we can move some people if we were playing Virginia tomorrow.
"We're starting to come together. I mean, it's hard to run as much as we do. It's hard to go, you know, 15 plays in a row, but we're starting to get there."
Virginia defensive line
BYU's revamped offensive line will face a mix of talent and experience in the Virginia front four.
Defensive end Jake Snyder: Now a senior, Snyder comes in at 6 feet 4 inches and 270 pounds. He started in all 12 games last season and led the UVA defensive line with 44 tackles. Recording 2.5 sacks last season, Snyder was second on the team in reaching the quarterback.
Defensive tackle David Bean: Bean is a 6-foot-1-inch, 290-pound sophomore. He received his first game experience last season and played in 11 of Virginia's 12 games. He recorded one sack and one tackle for a loss against Wake Forest, in addition to two more tackles – one against Richmond and one against Virginia Tech. Reports coming out of Virginia are that Dean has a high motor and is quick off the ball, more so than Brent Urban, who plays next to him.
Defensive tackle Brent Urban: Coming in at 6 feet 7 inches and 295 pounds, senior Brent Urban is not only the tallest Cavalier defensive lineman, but also one of the most experienced. He played in every game during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Last season, Urban recorded 20 tackles, two sacks and recovered a fumble for his first career touchdown against Virginia Tech.
Defensive end Eli Harold: Harold is probably UVA’s best defensive lineman. A five-star recruit and a very versatile athlete, the sophomore could have played multiple positions on both the offense and defense, including outside linebacker, tight end and wide receiver. Coming in at 6 feet 4 inches and 230 pounds, Harold played in all 12 games last season and finished the season ranked fourth on the team in tackles for a loss (seven). He tied for third on the team with two sacks while recording 36 tackles on the season.