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Countdown to Kickoff (73): BYU football boasts 2 of the best young offensive linemen in the nation

NCAA Football: Utah State at Brigham Young Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

BYU has history with some stellar offensive linemen, but the past decade hasn’t exactly produced much NFL talent. In fact, BYU hasn’t had an offensive lineman drafted since 2005, when Scott Young was taken in the fifth round.

Under Kalani Sitake and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, however, the offensive line position is becoming a strength once again.

Two examples of Jeff Grimes’ impact along the O-Line are sophomores James Empey and Brady Christensen. Empey was a Utah signee prior to his mission, but came to BYU in 2017 to join his dad and former offensive line coach Mike Empey. After redshirting in 2017, Empey started all 13 games at center last year and became one of the nation’s top centers. He was named a Freshman All-American and was recognized by Pro Football Focus as the 7th highest graded center in the country.

Now a sophomore, Empey will be an anchor for BYU’s offense and has an NFL future ahead of him.

Another stud freshman last year was left tackle Brady Christensen. Christensen was lightly recruited out of Bountiful High School (UT) but really blossomed last year after serving a mission and then redshirting in 2017. Under Grimes’ and Ryan Pugh’s tutelage, he became one of the top freshman tackles in the nation. Pro Football Focus grades him as the second highest returning sophomore tackles in the country. Now with a full season under his belt, he will be tasked with protecting Zach Wilson’s blindside.

Christensen and Empey join Tristen Hoge, Thomas Shoaf, Kieffer Longson and Keanu Saleapaga as offensive lineman with starting experience. If BYU’s offensive line can stay healthy and perform well versus elite defensive lines in the first month of season, we could finally see a potent offense for the first time in years.