When the football play-by-play announcer says, "the offense steps up to the line … the quarterback barks out the signals, now he's got the snap and fading back to pass," only one part of that involves the center (the snap).
But the center has many more responsibilities than just getting the ball to the QB and blocking.
Just ask BYU junior offensive lineman Houston Reynolds.
He's played both guard positions as well as the center position and he said it requires the greatest mental efforts.
"Center is challenging because there is such a short period of time from when you break the huddle to when you get to the line," Reynolds said. "Most centers at this level across the country are directing traffic, meaning they are telling the other guys on the line (and sometimes the running backs and tight ends) what to do. The center has to identify the linebacker and let everyone know who they are supposed to block. To identify those people and get everyone on the same page in three to six seconds is like playing speed chess.
"It's like a game within a game when you are playing center. Not only do you play o-line, you are thinking the whole time. You get to the sidelines sometimes after a 15-play drive and it feels like it's only been a couple of minutes because it goes so fast. It's fun but it's challenging."
The 2012 season won't be the first time Reynolds has stepped up to the challenge of being in the middle of the line. He did it as a freshman, then got moved around last season.
He said he likes being the type of guy who can be counted on to do what the team needs.
"There's something when you feel like you can step in and play," he said. "It makes you feel good to know you can help out where you are needed and be a great player wherever you need to be. But it is challenging and can be really stressful. You get rusty at certain positions and then you have to relearn them."
The guy who relies on Reynolds the most will be senior quarterback Riley Nelson, who said he has complete confidence in the junior.
"The center position is all about confidence in your knowledge of the protection," Nelson said. "You have to be able to direct guys and target guys. I know he has the physical ability to block. If he can get up there and make quick efficient calls to set guys, than I have no doubt he'll be fantastic."
While the identification and organization require a lot of effort, it's the actual snap that gets everything started. Reynolds said it took a little bit to develop the ability to keep everything separated.
"When I was young at center, I used to have to go to the line, identify people, get everyone on the same page, then I used to have to take a second, take a breath, and then snap the ball," he recalled. "If I didn't, I'd snap it and it would go all over the place and I'd get all funky with my footwork.
"It does affect you but when you've played it for so long, you know what to do. If we're doing different things, I snap the ball a little differently. It's not much, but it's a little bit and it starts to become natural."
Nelson said that will all the repetitions between the center and the quarterback, the handling of the ball becomes routine. Thus he didn't expect any challenges even though he is working with a new center this fall.
"Under the center and in the gun, everyone is a little different," he said. "But you just deal with it unless it becomes a problem. If it's getting back there, I don't even think twice about it."
Centers have to be able to get the ball to the quarterback cleanly whether he is lined up right behind him or back in shotgun formation. Reynolds said he's ready to do both, but he does have a preference.
"I like under center," he said. "I love to run block, which is something I think every o-lineman prides himself on. When we can get our hand on the ground, it sparks a little fire under us."
Reynolds and some of the other offensive linemen have been dealing with a number of minor injuries that have limited their reps in fall camp, but the junior said he's confident the unit will be ready when the first game against Washington State rolls around.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.