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August 8, 2012One of the only starting position battles on the entire offense is at right guard, and Coach Weber has plenty of talent to choose from to fill it. He's taking every opportunity he can to see that talent in action as well. The coaching staff did an interesting thing on the first day of camp, running Outland and Lombardi Trophy watch list candidate Braden Hansen with the second team OL, presumably so that they can see more suitors for that Right Guard position playing against the first team defense.
With Houston Reynolds on the sidelines with shin soreness it gave the coaches another opportunity to see Blair Tushaus (Soph.) play with the ones at center, and although it wasn't necessarily the plan coming into fall camp, there's always the possibility that Tushaus starts at center while Houston Reynolds moves to right guard. Ryker Mathews manned the Left tackle position as expected, and Braden Brown was at his Right Tackle spot where he has been for years. Then the positions CougarNation was watching were who played at right and left guard with the first team on day one. And it was Solomone Kafu (Soph.) at Left Guard and Brock Stringham (Soph.) at Right Guard. Solomone Kafu, out of Rio Linda, CA is stockier than most of the linemen on the team weighing in at 305 lbs while only measuring 6'2" tall, and has a couple of games of experience from last year in clean up duty. Brock Stringham was a three star recruit out of Colorado in 2008, and impressed coaches during Spring camp earlier this year but sprained his ankle in one of the first days of fall camp and has been in a boot the last couple of days.
What makes this position battle even more intriguing is that Walter Kahaiali'i (Sr.) may be considered one of the favorites at the Right Guard position, as he battled Houston Reynolds and Ryker Mathews for the starting Left Guard spot a year ago. But he was delayed in getting back to camp from his recent wedding in Hawaii, and missed the first couple of days of camp. Brock Stringham's ankle sprain brings extra uncertainty as to who will end up on top, and has given another player more reps in Ryan Freeman (Sr.), who has run with the first team the last three practices. Freeman was a 3 star recruit coming out of Orem High School in 2006, but has been injured the last two seasons and is finally healthy enough to compete for a spot in the starting lineup.
Competing on the second unit are Famika Anae (Soph.), Manaaki Vaitai (Jr.) who was a 3 star recruit out of Texas in 2007, Michael Yeck (Soph.), and Terrance Alletto (Fr.) who was a 3 star recruit out of Colorado in 2009, but is recently returned from a mission and may be the least likely to earn the starting job this year for that reason. Vaitai is the most likely of this group to land on the first team because of his talent and time in the program, but he has been bothered by injuries and was unable to participate in practice today.
This is one of the deeper offensive lines the Cougars have enjoyed during Coach Mendenhall's tenure, mostly because of all of the injuries to the starters during Spring Camp. These linemen are more experienced and have taken more reps than most BYU Linemen have at their place in the depth chart, and the hope is that it will add depth this year without hurting the starting unit's effectiveness too badly. CougarNation loves competition and depth, because nothing motivates a player more than seeing his backup flat back an opposing defensive lineman. The present is encouraging with so many talented players competing for one position, and the future looks bright with multiple underclassmen challenging very capable seniors for the starting job.