BYU football has an overabundance of offensive linemen. Maybe letting them play multiple positions is the answer.


BYU has eight players with starting experience on the line, but only five starting spots

Connor Pay takes snaps during spring training.

Provo • Maybe Darrell Funk had the wrong approach all along.

While he’s spent the last two seasons trying to make Connor Pay a center, then a guard, then a tackle, maybe finding him a single home on the offensive line wasn’t the right idea. Maybe embracing the shapeshifting mentality was the best way to go from the start.

BYU’s offensive line coach is all about the idea now.

“The versatility is huge,” Funk said. “Not all guys train together [at multiple positions] but when he does, there’s a reason for it. When you go deep it can help.

Pay is a fitting case study for the offensive line this season. With eight players with starting experience and only five starting positions, the way to maximize depth may be for guys to play multiple positions. This way there can be multiple queues and almost everyone is playing.

There are edge cases like Pay, who can move up and down the offensive line playing all-fives. And then there are other guys like Joe Tukuafu, who can go from center to tackle.

“We have me and Joe playing [center]said Pay, speaking of the band’s versatility. “Then we vary between a few different guys in the second group breaking the ball.”

According to Funks’ estimation, there are at least four players training to maximize their snaps. Harris LeChance played in two places and rookie Kingsley Suamataia changed the sides of the ball.

The challenge for Funk is to find a way to use all the talents of the group. BYU returns four of five starters. And then there’s LeChance, who started three games last year. Campbell Barrington, who started six games and played in eight. And, of course, there’s the five-star transfer from Oregon Suamataia — BYU’s highest-rated rookie in years.

“There are 10 guys who could play,” Tukuafu said. “Hopefully the top five will start. But I believe 10, if not more, could start.

Head coach Kalani Sitake said he wants there to be a set of five guys who finish games. He compares it to an NCAA tournament basketball game, where programs know who is going to be on the floor in the stretch to spawn stability.

But other than that, Sitake left it up to Funk to decide how he wants to mix and match players throughout the day.

“I think we’ll have some good opportunities to rotate some guys,” Sitake said. “We have [a lot of players] who started matches, but only five places.

As spring training winds down, finalizing a starting rotation is even more urgent. Tukuafu talked about the offensive line working as a unit. Knowing which is the unit, and the rotation, will help to enter the summer.

And Funk reflected that concern. But he doubts that will happen. Because he rates the deepest group he’s seen, it’s going to take time for him to press the right buttons to max it out.

“Ideally, you’d like to come out of the spring with a pretty good pace in your starting lineup,” Funk said. “But we’re so deep that it’s not going to happen. We will have more guys able to start than able to hold a starting position.

“You know, some guys look at the rotation and think I’m just throwing guys out there. But there is more than that. We will be better at versatility.


• As BYU enters the fourth week of spring practice, staff will begin finalizing a travel slate. Currently, there are over 100 players on the spring roster.

• Sitake and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick were expecting to have an almost finalized backup quarterback at this stage of camp. They admitted that the competition has not yet materialized.

“I thought we would have more idea now,” Sitake said. “… We are not in a hurry.”

Editor’s Note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Please support local journalism.


Comments are closed.