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July 22, 2014

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BYU’s senior offensive linemen brace for final challenge

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Justin M. Bowen

BYU practices at Bishop Gorman’s football field in preparation for Saturday’s game against Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl.

BYU prepares for the Las Vegas Bowl

BYU practices at Bishop Gorman's football field in preparation for Saturday's game against Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl. Launch slideshow »

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When asked about what it feels like to play behind one of the best offensive lines in college football, BYU quarterback Max Hall sounds like a kid describing his Christmas toy.

"It's sweet, it's really awesome," Hall said. "I think they've been there for me all year. I've had them for two years now and I'm definitely going to miss them. They're good dudes and I think all of them are going to have successful careers in the NFL."

The Cougars will get one more game out of four of its offensive lineman before each of their seniors takes a shot at the NFL.

Left guard Ray Feinga has been listed by some as a Top 10 guard and could go on the first day of the draft. Center Dallas Reynolds, right guard Travis Bright and right tackle David Oswald also all have legitimate shots at seeing playing time in the pros.

"It's good to know that the guy next to you, you'll see at the next level playing on Sunday," Bright said. "It's neat, but we try to not think about it that much."

With high expectations following the seasoned group, the seniors and redshirt freshman Matt Reynolds put up an incredible effort all year long. They ranked 34th in sacks allowed with 18, which is more impressive considering the Cougars rank 19th in pass attempts.

The offensive line allows an average of just four tackles for losses per game, sixth best in the country. Perhaps their best stat, though, is that the starting five have not received a holding penalty the entire season.

Even losing a former all-SEC freshman-team center, Tom Sorensen, to a torn ACL injury before the first game didn't hinder the lines performance. Dallas Reynolds moved to center, Matt Reynolds became a starter, and the group didn't allow a single sack through its first five games.

"That stretch definitely boosted our confidence, knowing that not only can we hold that protection, but help Max to feel confident in the pocket," Bright said. "He can make his first, second and third reads and do his job. It definitely boosts that confidence but also puts on more pressure that we can do it, we've done it before and we have to keep doing it."

As a player who has watched the talented group perform all season long, freshman backup lineman Lawrence Pico says he's been lucky to learn from the guys and hopes to continue the tradition of great offensive lines at BYU in the future.

"They're a good group of guys. They just click out there with the way they communicate to each other," Pico said. "The younger guys have been looking up to the seniors all year and it's been an amazing thing. I've just tried to learn everything I possibly could from them and what they do."

The group should receive a heavy challenge from the Arizona defensive line Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Wildcats allow just 132.3 rushing yards per game and have sacked opposing quarterbacks 22 times.

"They're known for being extremely disciplined," Bright said. "The ends know to keep contained and do well with that. They're very physical and they won't lie down so it will be a good, tough game. I really just believe that whoever executes better will bring the trophy home."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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