I am going to begin taking an occasional look at true freshmen who could make an impact this season. First up is BYU offensive tackle Ryker Mathews.
The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Mathews enrolled in school early and practiced with the team in the spring, allowing offensive coordinator Brandon Doman a first look at one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. He raved about Mathews and said there is a chance he could play this fall as a true freshman.
Mathews is listed as the backup at the all-important left tackle spot behind All-America candidate Matt Reynolds. With Reynolds out for the spring, it was up to Mathews to protect the blind side of Jake Heaps. "He did a fantastic job," Doman said.
"He was in here for winter conditioning for January, February and March and prepared himself with strength and conditioning," Doman said. "With spring ball, that will catapult him with experience and the foundation physically in fall camp. The second thing that impressed me was he was unfazed. He had the perfect mentality. The better the defensive line he went up against, the better he played. Most young guys, the more nervous they got the worse they played. For this guy, it was the complete opposite. He showed glimpses of greatness, and hopefully he is one of our next great O-linemen here."
Doman mentioned that Mathews would be in the mix to play at right guard with Walter Kahaialii and Houston Reynolds (younger brother of Matt), the only position that is up for grabs on the starting offensive line. But his future is at tackle, so the coaches will have to make a decision about whether to play him immediately in an eight-man rotation, or redshirt him and potentially have him as a four-year starter. Matt Reynolds obviously has the left tackle position locked up for this season, barring injury.
"If he's not a starting player, maybe we redshirt him, but he’s battling to be a Saturday game-day guy," Doman said. "We'll have to make that decision down the road."