When BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes was asked last week about how his offensive line was doing, he was clear about his expectations.
“I want to see them become the toughest guys on the offense,” Grimes said. “I don’t know if they are that or not but that is the first thing. They need to lead our offense in terms of toughness and grit. I think they are certainly willing, but we have a lot of work to do too.”
A couple of minutes later, he selected that unit as the one on the Cougar offense that needed to make the most improvement in fall camp.
“I would start with the offensive line,” Grimes said. “If we are going to have the type of culture and identity that I would like to have with this offense, that starts with them. If they will play physical and play hard, then everything else we want to do will work.”
BYU sophomore offensive linemen James Empey and Brady Christensen say the guys on the line don’t mind hearing Grimes saying they need to keep getting better.
“We love it,” Christensen said earlier this week. “We love getting held to a high standard. We want the highest standard. If we don’t meet that high standard, we are disappointed. I’m actually pumped that he holds us to such a high standard.”
Empey said that the guys on the line understand the significance of the work they are putting in.
“Everything is won in the trenches,” Empey said. “You’ve heard that a million times but that is the truth. If we can be able to do our job as well as we need to and dominate the line of scrimmage, I think our offense can do big things. We have the playmakers to do it, so we are just looking forward to doing our part.”
Many of BYU’s offensive linemen emerged from relative obscurity but now they are facing the expectations of doing fairly well as a young group in 2018.
“For so much of my life, I’ve kind of been the underdog,” Christensen said. “No one has really known about me. I’ve always kind of had that role but now it has kind of switched. We have to keep this high standard. We have to give our best. We have to come in with the underdog attitude and work our tails off every play.”
That can’t just be the starters either, since the team knows anyone can be called on at any time.
“The depth has been great,” Christensen said. “We are all working hard. Clark Barrington has been looking great. He’s one of a lot of guys we have coming up. We’re pushing each other and that’s a big thing.”
The evidence of the growth of the BYU offensive line has been on the field, according to the players.
“There have been a lot of explosive plays and a lot of third-down conversions,” Christensen said. “Those have been a big emphasis for us. It’s been fun to watch everyone do that.”
With three weeks until the season-opener against Utah, the Cougar linemen now have to prove they can have the same success down after down and truly become what Grimes envisions them being.
“As fall camp goes on, we’re going to get tougher and tougher,” Empey said. “We’re growing and getting there. I feel like our coaches have us on the right path to get us there. I think we can reach the standard where we are the toughest guys — but it’s going to take a lot of work. That is our goal.”