The new BYU football offensive line coach is certainly hard to miss.
A former Cougar lineman, Garett Tujague was listed at 6-foot-5 and 295 pounds during his time in Provo from 1989-91 and still looks like he could line up against his players.
“I could only go maybe a series, especially with the fast-tempo stuff,” Tujague said. “I don't know if I could do it.”
BYU junior offensive lineman Solomone Kafu doesn’t agree.
“I feel like he could outrun me sometimes,” Kafu said. “He's energetic and ready to go. He brings that energy to practice.”
But Tujague has more important things to be concerned with than bashing helmets with the current Cougar linemen.
With the aid of BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae, Tujague has the responsibility of getting those players ready to dominate this fall.
“It all starts up front and I think that the more that we do this and the longer that we are able to sustain drives, the more successful we are going to be,” Tujague said. “It will be huge trying to get them as tired as they can be and still function and be able to communicate and execute is the key to this.”
Anae said he’s been impressed with what he is seeing from the BYU front in the early days of camp, but pointed out they’ve just started the process.
“That's the biggest group with the most learning right now,” Anae said. “We've got a lot of young guys who are figuring out the schemes and lots of things the defense is going as well. That's the one that is getting the most test immediately right now.”
Kafu said the unit is working harder than it ever has to try and keep pace with Anae’s up-tempo approach.
“It's definitely high-intensity,” he said. “There is high pursuit, quick, no-huddle, it's a new mindset. It's no longer about getting to the line and analyzing. It's about getting there and going hard.”
Cougar sophomore offensive lineman Ryker Mathews said he’s thrilled with the new approach.
“I like it better,” he said. “I've always been the kind of person who likes to catch people off guard. If the defense is having troubles lining up and we're already running our play, it all the better for us.”
Since Mathews is currently recovering from double hip surgery, he’s having to try and learn the new offense without being able to participate.
“It sucks pretty bad,” Mathews said. “I came here to play football, so if I'm watching football and not playing, it's not very fun to be a part of. All I can do is take some mental reps and try to be the best I can be for my situation. With a new offense that is getting plays off every 13 seconds, I'm definitely going to have to get in shape as soon as I can get back.”
Kafu said finding the balance between offensive lineman size and the ability to move quickly is important for each of the guys in the trenches.
“As an offensive lineman, we're trying to improve in that area, in stamina and strength,” he said. “We have to find a balance between how heavy we are and being able to move at that weight. It's springtime, so it's an opportunity for us to get better and find our strengths and weaknesses.”
One of the most glaring problems has been with the snap, as frequently the BYU quarterbacks have had to chase errant exchanges during the first week of practice.
“It was a lot better today,” Tujague said. “I don't remember any miscues off the top of my head. We worked on it every day. When you go at that tempo, sometimes you forget the little things. That can make the ball go flying, so I think we got better at that today.”
Kafu said he thinks the Cougars will be able to get a lot of that ironed out during spring. He believes that the next step for the unit is to get the assignments down.
“Right now we are picking up the intensity and learning the pace we have to work at,” he said. “We have know those assignments and execute them without having to second-guess things all the time.”
Mathews said he sees the guys on the field performing at a different level when they are confident with what they are doing.
“They do really well when they don't have to think about things,” the sophomore explained. “Everyone the second they hear the play they are trying to think and make sure they are doing everything right. Then they kind of second-guess themselves. Once they hear a play that we've run and they know what they are doing, then they are doing really well. It's all a matter of getting all the plays down so they don't have to think about them.”
With both Anae and Tujague working with them, the Cougars are confident the focus will pay off as the players get acclimated to the new approach.
“I don't even want to count how many years of experience that is because it might get embarrassing,” Tujague said. “I learn things from him every day and I'd like to think I bring stuff to the table as well. We bounce ideas off each other and it's a really good cohesive unit. If I was an offensive lineman at BYU right now, I'd be pretty excited.”
Reynolds might be done: The Cougars might have lost the services of another talented offensive lineman as Houston Reynolds might be done with football.
“Houston is not out with us,” Anae said. “As far as I know, he’s not going to be with the team.”
Reynolds was hurt last year in the game against Utah and while the trainers have not made it official, it appears his career might be over.
Back and forth: BYU sophomore defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi was back on the football field Monday afternoon, having returned from the Cougar basketball team after it lost in the West Coast Conference tournament on Friday.
“I’m a little rusty but it’s not too bad,” Kaufusi said.
He explained that the current plan in to have him rejoin the hoops squad for the postseason, then finish up spring football.
“I feel like basketball helped me a lot,” Kaufusi said. “Conditioning, footwork, agility, all of those things will help.”
Coaching clinic set: BYU football also announced its annual coaches clinic, which will be held Friday, March 22 for high school football coaches.
The clinic will feature workshops with high school coaches from around the country, as well as breakout sessions with current BYU football coaches. Attendees will also attend BYU football practice in the afternoon.
The registration fee for the clinic is $40 per coach. The fee includes lunch and dinner.
Complete details on the clinic can be found at http://byucougars.com/files/football_clinic_brochure_2013.pdf.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.