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Provo • Even as untimely departures, retirements and injuries rob some of its depth and continuity, BYU's offensive line is starting to take shape at preseason camp.
That was evident at Wednesday's practice, as projected starters Houston Reynolds and senior Braden Hansen worked side by side with the ones for perhaps the first time since camp opened Aug. 2. Reynolds has been slowed by sore shins, and Hansen was relegated to working with the second unit because he didn't pass the camp-opening fitness test.
With Reynolds at center, Hansen at left guard, Ryker Mathews at left tackle, Braden Brown at right tackle and sophomore Blair Tushaus at right guard, this may be how the starting unit looks on Aug. 30 against Washington State.
Tushaus has been with the ones at center most of camp, and is still battling Reynolds to be the starter there. But the right guard is perhaps the most open of any spot, with sophomore Brock Stringham having entered camp as the projected starter there before an ankle sprain.
"I don't think anything is permanent yet at this point. But it is nice to see different combinations of guys," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "The luxury we are having right now is competition at a lot of different places. That's helped our consistency at practice, because if a player has an off day, or doesn't want to work on a particular day, someone goes by him. That's pretty apparent at a lot of different places."
Sophomore Solomone Kafu was showing versatility and pushing the starters at several positions, but he will have to wait a while to get back into the competition. He suffered a fractured bone in his hand and will undergo surgery Thursday to have a plate inserted.
Kafu will be out for a couple of weeks, and will wear a soft cast when he does return. Tuesday, BYU announced that senior offensive lineman Walter Kahaiali'i is quitting football due to knee issues, and Fono Vakalahi is transferring, but Mendenhall said the depth is still good there.
"We are not modified, or having to pull back [in practice]," Mendenhall said. "I might choose to [modify], if I think the team is tired. But I don't have to worry if we have enough O-linemen. Man, that is really nice to have."
Is D-Line deep enough?
Mendenhall said the defensive line isn't nearly as deep. Coaches have decided that they have four solid, potential starters in Eathyn Manumaleuna, Romney Fuga, Ian Dulan and Russell Tialavea, with the latter two having not played since LDS Church missions, despite being seniors.
Depth "would be a concern, still," Mendenhall said.
Dulan has missed a week due to a sore back, but he recently received an injection to block the pain and is expected to return soon.
Mendenhall said the second-string spots along the three-man defensive line "are up for grabs, in terms of the fifth and sixth D-linemen."
That group includes freshmen Theodore King and Remington Peck, junior Mike Muehlmann, senior Simote Vea, freshman Tui Crichton and senior Ziggy Ansah, who also plays outside linebacker.
Freshman running back Jamaal Williams missed practice with a sprained ankle and is said to be day-to-day. … The Cougars will conduct a scrimmage at the stadium Thursday morning, but it will be closed to the general public. Mendenhall said it will be much like last week's scrimmage, and only a few starters will see action. … The CT scan on WR Mitch Mathews' sore shoulder/clavicle showed no longterm worries. … Receivers Alex Kuresa and Brett Thompson caught long touchdown passes in team drills.
BYU camp cuts
What we learned • Receiver Mitch Mathews is cleared by a CT scan on his shoulder to return to play, but receivers coach Ben Cahoon says he hasn't wrapped up the fourth receiver spot.
Who was hot • Former quarterback Alex Kuresa, now a receiver, hauls in a 60-yard touchdown pass from Riley Nelson.
Who was out • Sophomore offensive lineman Solomone Kafu breaks a bone in his hand and will undergo surgery on Thursday. He will be out for a few weeks.