Coaches Joe DuPaix and Ben Cahoon bring a lot of youth and enthusiasm to the coaching staff, and that was very apparent during the first day of practice.
"Joe DuPaix has so much enthusiasm and so many in-state connections already with recruiting, and [he] works the running backs really, really hard," observed head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "He brings a contagious enthusiasm for the game, and I haven't seen him walk yet. The guy, he's full speed all the time. In staff meetings, getting him to sit down is quite a chore."
Indeed, DuPaix is very demonstrative and hands-on with his coaching approach, from what this reporter observed Monday. It's difficult to imagine any running back not responding to that type of coaching approach in a positive manner.
"Ben [Cahoon] is very much different," said Mendenhall. "He's very cerebral in his approach. He has a strong academic approach to the game with an unbelievable emphasis on the mastery of the game. I've already seen an influence just in drill work and how the kids are performing."
Mendenhall stated that the main thing he wants to see this spring from his offense is the development of a strong identity, which will lead to a high level of execution. On defense, he wants to see a continuation of the last seven weeks of last season.
"We'll now have more time to train it," said Mendenhall about the certain identity he wants his defense to continue with. He mentioned that they will look for who will play regularly on the two-deep roster, but not at the expense of developing the right mentality of effort and proper execution.
Middle linebacker Austen Jorgensen is excited about Mendenhall continuing in his role as defensive coordinator.
"Meetings are a lot more intense, even in spring, that's for sure," he related. "He did a good job at scaring some people out of their pants getting the mentality right. He said [during a meeting] that half of this room won't be here in the fall, and he really had us sweating and it's good. It's very important for us as a defense to maintain a great intensity, even in spring ball to make sure we're performing like we should. He gets us nasty and intense with how he runs meetings, and while it scares us a bit, it‘s really good that he's that way."
First day observations
-The receivers were running a lot more cone drills, which called for quick and accurate cuts. Cahoon's emphasis on technique was very apparent from the first day.
-The following players were held out of drills due to academic issues or breaking of team rules, but are expected back soon: Drew Phillips, Zac Stout, Jray Galea'i, and Jordan Atkinson.
-Kori Gaines and Thomas Bryson will both not participate in spring, but are expected back by fall. Gaines is still in school, but Bryson has withdrawn for the semester.
-Collin Keoshian has withdrawn from school and is not expected to come back according to Mendenhall.
-Offensive linemen Matt Reynolds, Walter Kahaiali'i and Terence Brown are all expected to sit out spring practices due to injury. All are expected to be fine by fall.
-Blair Tushaus saw reps with the ones at center, alongside Marco Thorson, Braden Brown, Brock Stringham and Manaaki Vaitai.
-Houston Reynolds was the center with the twos and joined with Manu Mulitalo, Quinn Lawlor, Austin Nielsen and Ryker Mathews.
-Jordan Johnson and Robbie Buckner both recorded interceptions during skeleton drills. Both looked very impressive with knockdowns during one-on-one drills, along with Carter Mees and DeQuan Everett, who is still being played at cornerback.
-The ones on defense for the first day included Eathyn Manumaleuna, Travis Tuiloma, Matt Putnam, Kyle Van Noy, Jameson Frazier, Austen Jorgensen, Brandon Ogletree, Daniel Sorensen, Travis Uale, Robbie Buckner and Preston Hadley.
-Brian Logan was at practice doing a lot of coaching on the sidelines, along with the injured Corby Eason.
-Heaps finished the day going 8 of 10 for 64 yards during live drills. The emphasis for the first day was underneath passing to the running backs.
-James Lark finished with 3-of-4 passing for 53 yards, while Riley Nelson went 2 of 3 for 10 yards.
-Van Noy showed very well for the first day in jumping the ball-carrier many times in the backfield, as well as recording a sack and a pass knockdown during his two series of live reps.