“Notre Dame’s front seven was tough,” BYU head coach Gary Crowton said, “so it was hard for us to run against them consistently during the game.”
Junior Lance Reynolds Jr. who played his first game ever at center anchoring BYU’s offensive line, added: “Just talking to players who played last year, they say that Notre Dame’s front seven was the toughest they went against all year, except for maybe USC. Those same guys thought that they were maybe even tougher this year.”
Regardless, 22 yards rushing is something Cougar coaches and players definitely plan to improve upon. “We definitely want to run the ball better this week against Stanford. You need a good ground game to be consistent on offense. That’s something we’re looking to improve upon this coming week and for the rest of the season,” Crowton continued.
His off-season hiring of offensive line coach Jeff Grimes from Arizona State also marked the beginning of a significantly increased focus on run-blocking heading into this season. According to Reynolds, he hasn’t let up at all. “Just watching film with coach Grimes, he’s really focusing on technique and completing run-blocking assignments this week heading into the Stanford game. We did all right in some things, but we have a lot that we need to improve on. So yeah, better run-blocking is probably the chief focus for us this week.”
Improved run-blocking also opens the Cougars’ passing game considerably as opposing defenses will generally move their safeties and linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage to limit any rushing success during games. This aspect is not lost on BYU’s top receiver Todd Watkins. “We definitely want to run the ball better. You got to have both the passing game and the running game be successful. If we’re running the ball well, then that opens up a whole lot for us as wide receivers. On the other hand, if we do a good job opening up the field, then that will help open up the running game so we can help each other.”
Cougar wide receivers can further help the running game with improved sun support blocking of their own. Not only the “big uglies” up front can open holes for good gains by the running backs; the receivers and tight ends may crucial roles in this area.
Freshman receiver Austin Collie noted that “blocking downfield is something we take pride in as wide receivers. You don’t focus on it much in high school, but it’s something that’s definitely preached here from day one. We try to take as much pride in our blocking downfield as we do in running routes and other stuff. It’s very important for us to hold and sustain our blocks.”
The coaches were not the only ones preaching run-blocking to Collie in his inaugural season as a BYU Cougar. “It’s something my dad (former BYU and CFL professional league wide receiver standout) and other family members have told me to do. They’ve told me from day one to be a complete player and that includes giving it my all on special teams, running plays and obviously in running routes and on passing plays. I want to be a complete player. You have to be at this level to be successful.”
His junior teammate Watkins agrees. “Oh yeah, you want to block as effectively as possible so that the running game is successful. Like I said, the running game only helps the passing game. Hopefully we can get both the passing game and the running game going this week against Stanford.”
One thing that is not lacking, according to Reynolds, is a committed and collective effort by the offensive line unit he anchors. “The one thing I took away from the Notre Dame game is that I left it all on the field. I gave everything I had. As long as I do that, then everything else will fall into place. I feel the same about all the other guys as well. We obviously missed some assignments and didn’t block as effectively as we could on every down, but I feel we gave it our all. If we continue to do that, then the running game will come along fine,” Reynolds added.
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