As a junior in 2007, David Oswald started in all 13 games at the right tackle position on an offense that finished the season ranked 14th in the nation. The offensive line is projected to be a major strength for the team this coming season, and spring camp is proving that to be the case.
“That’s kind of the idea, because we have four returning starters,” said Oswald regarding the offensive line being a strength for the team. “If everyone is doing their best in personal improvement this spring ball and offseason, then that will equal group improvement. We expect to be improved as a group this year.”
Oswald has been one of the only linemen to not switch his position on the offensive line recently. At 6 feet 8 inches, his physical build is more suited for stretching out the rush of defensive ends or any other defender coming off the edge looking to make a play on Max Hall.
“I think with a few exceptions the whole offensive line moves around,” said Oswald. “I’m one of the only ones that hasn’t. Back in 2006 I played both right and left tackle,” said Oswald. “Then last year I started every game at right tackle, so I’m really comfortable there and it feels really good now.
“A lot of playing offensive line is just repetition with technique so it becomes natural, so after playing right tackle now for a couple of years I just feel really comfortable there. Also, playing in the same offense helps as well because you don’t have to change how you do things at your position.”
Coach Weber has opened up the offensive line for competition among the players. He’s looking for both the right combination of talent and cohesion.
“That’s kind of what spring practice is for,” Oswald said. “We can move the guys around and see how they perform. Then come fall practice, we’ve got a bunch of guys that [Coach Weber] can move around to find the best players. If someone goes down he knows who are the best backups, even if they aren’t listed at that position.”
Cross training offensive linemen is a philosophy that helps achieve greater cohesion and depth. By playing different positions, each player better understands what it takes for the guy next to him to play that position and can adjust his game to better help out.
“I think the o-line isn’t too hard to switch around from different positions, but if you’ve never done it, then it becomes hard to switch sides because you have to move differently than what you’ve been conditioning yourself for,” said Oswald. “It’s not too hard to move from tackle to guard or guard to tackle, but if you’ve done it recently, then the familiarity of the position comes more natural. Also, it helps if Coach Weber feels he needs a change; then people can jump around without much effort.”
The risk of an interchangeable offensive line is the disruption of the chemistry the players have created through familiarity of play. According to Oswald, the one factor that counters this is trust.
“It does change things a little bit,” Oswald said. “But I think we’re a close nit group, which helps a lot. To be a good offensive line you have to be able to really trust one another and have confidence in the guys next to you. I think we all have that with one another, so when someone changes a position, it doesn’t really change the chemistry much. It doesn’t really matter to me who is next to me because I know that whoever it is can get the job done, so I don’t have to change how I play much and visa versa. We all trust each other.”
When Coach Weber first came to BYU, he placed a greater emphasis on second-tier blocking, in which the offensive line plays more downfield. This requires greater effort for these big men who already have a lot of physical burden placed on their shoulders. However, this mentality and style of play has paid dividends on the football field.
“Coach Weber has maintained his philosophy this year, which is a great one for offensive linemen,” Oswald said. “He expects effort and playing hard every down. He then mixes in technique and attention to fundamentals and details that help make us better linemen in the passing and run schemes. Every drill we do we have to cover downfield afterwards. We’re training more downfield with every block not just as a team, but also in individual drills as well.
“It’s always easier to finish on the run because you don’t want to be the guy who gives up the tackle. On the pass, it’s always easy to stand and watch the ball go downfield [and] then wait for the next play, but now we have to pursue downfield following the pass in order to get a second block for a possible big play. We then make those things habits, and that’s what makes us great players in the fall.”