Playing Center on the offensive line isn’t an easy task. There isn’t any glory, touchdowns, sacks, or interceptions. But the Center is the only player guaranteed to touch the ball on every offensive snap. You’re expected to be the strongest on the team in pre-season workouts, the only time that your name gets called out is when you have a bad snap, and you need to make all of the reads for the lines pass protection.
For BYU, it may be the most difficult position to gauge depth on the team. Tejan Koroma is a Freshman All-American, and has been named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose watch list. He is tenacious on run blocks. His first step towards his man is quick, and he knocks them off balance with his violent punch and creates a hole before the defensive tackle can react. His stout on pass blocking comes from his solid base, and amazing kick steps. He’s never over his toes, so the defensive lineman can’t use a swim move to gain an advantage plus he his strong enough that a rip doesn’t break his grip when he gets ahold of a pass rusher. His snaps aren’t perfect, but he rarely has an uncatchable one. All in all Koroma is the unquestioned starter for the team. However, there’s a chance that he may not be the opening day starter when BYU travels to Lincoln Nebraska to take on the Corn Huskers.
Koroma’s backups could leave a little, or a lot, to be desired. Left guard Kyle Johnson seems to be the leading candidate to fill the roll. Moving from guard to center is like moving from slot to outside receiver. There are similarities, but it’s the differences that will keep Coach Tujague up at night. Can Johnson call out the zone protection on a run pass option for Taysom Hill? Can he learn to kick step with both of his feet on slide protections? Most importantly can he keep his wrist unbroken and deliver a snap to the belt? Johnson is getting most of the 2nd team reps in practice, and is getting more comfortable by the day on how to play center. He is one of the more dependable and coachable players on the team. He’s solid at everything he does; fans should feel comfortable with him snapping the ball.
Having one of your other starters as the primary backup is concerning about the incoming depth at center. BYU is stacked with eight incoming redshirt or true Freshman who are slated to play along the offensive line. None of these kids have turned in a Herculean Freshman camp like Koroma did a year ago. One name to keep an eye on is Jaterrius Gulley. At 6’ 2 340 LBS, he has the size to deliver punishment to opposing defensive lineman, but his feet need a tremendous amount of work before he could be considered a true backup at Center. He comes from Hoover High in Alabama (yes the same one featured on MTV’s Two-a-Days,). With his size and athleticism, he could be the next man up. If he is though, he’ll have a steep learning curve.
Local product Parker Dawe has been seeing meaningful reps at Center during fall and spring practices. He’s a returned missionary from Pleasant Grove Utah, but as a Junior he would have a long way to go to ever see the field unless Koroma was injured for a significant amount of time.
If Koroma is manning the middle of the line on opening day in Lincoln, Cougar fans should feel comfortable and elated that one of the meanest, nastiest, and toughest lineman in the nation is snapping the ball to Hill. If it’s Johnson I wouldn’t feel confident, but it wouldn’t be panic mode. He will be able to stand toe to toe with any tackle that Nebraska throws at him, but he may not get the ball to Hill as quickly and accurately as a natural center would. Also to note with Johnson at center, someone is going to have to fill in at left guard. So now you’re down to backups at two interior lineman spots.
It’s going to be interesting who Hill takes the snaps from the first play in Lincoln. One thing is for sure, Koroma will maul multiple Nose Tackles this season, but will his backups?