Fixing the Offensive Line

By Jake Welch

It’s no secret that the BYU offensive line has been underperforming the first part of this season. The running lanes have been narrow and the pass protection inconsistent at best. The underwhelming play lead to a few changes in the Hawaii game. The moves paid off last Friday but there are a few other things that the BYU coaching staff can do to help this struggling offensive line, and none of them involve firing Mark Weber.

Quick Throws – There is nothing more frustrating for a defensive lineman than fighting to get to the quarterback only to see that the ball left his hand seconds earlier. By using a series of quick passes the defensive line won’t go full boar every single play if they can’t make a play on the ball. If you watch the Oregon offense, you will see that there is very little pressure on the QB a few plays into the series. The pace of play has a lot to do with this, but the Oregon offensive line also forces the opposing d-line to move across the field just as much as north and south. I don’t envision us running an Oregon style offense anytime soon but we can take a page out of their playbook and spread the defense with quick throws to the sidelines.

The bubble screen should also be included here because it’s a quick pass that forces defensive backs to make plays in space. A bubble screen takes the blocking burden off of the o-line for a play and puts it on the skill players. BYU should think about using these more often because of the size and athleticism that they have at WR. Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo should be able to dominate their cornerback counterparts.

Traps and Counters – The running game thus far has featured a lot of downhill iso play. The line will use combo blocks to clear out the first level and the fullback will attempt to clear the hole with a kick-out block. It’s pretty simple stuff and works if you have an offensive line like Wisconsin or Alabama. Seeing that BYU doesn’t have that kind of talent, they need to mix things up. A well timed trap play up the middle can work wonders for an offensive line. If there is a defensive tackle that is flying upfield every play, hitting him with a couple of trap blocks will make him think twice about bull rushing. The same goes for the counter play. It forces backside defensive ends to stay at home and play patiently.

Screen Passes – A perfectly designed screen pass can result in a huge gain. It can also force opposing defensive lineman to ease up in the rush and respect the screen. We have seen a few bubble screens out to the wide receivers but in order for this to help the offensive line, it needs to be a jailbreak screen where a couple of the offensive lineman will release on their blocks and move downfield to clear the way for the running back or receiver. Below is a perfect example of what I’m suggesting. The quarterback is able to deliver the ball before the rush gets to him and by then then two massive lineman are set to clear out tiny safeties and cornerbacks. There are many different versions of this play that can be run successfully but the key is to run in way that will keep the defense off balance.

All of these suggestions are meant to keep defenses guessing. The offensive playcalling isn’t helping the line one bit. Defensive linemen are free to run upfield without and consequence and linebackers can fly to the ball without having to worry about any kind of misdirection. If BYU starts implementing some of the plays mentioned above, they will keep defenses guessing and give the Cougar offense the upper hand.

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