Spring practice: day 5

On Monday the Cougars practiced in the indoor practice facility and wore shells instead of full pads. All in all, the offense – particularly the passing game – looked pretty sharp during team scrimmages, as there were few incompletions. Meanwhile, Coach Mendenhall said the identity of his team was "very, very competitive. Very competitive."

"It's very competitive, and we have a good team," said Coach Mendenhall about his team's progress during spring. "I'm really encouraged by what I see offensively with the energy that Coach Doman is bringing, and our new offensive staff. I like the way our team is competing, and I'm very comfortable after five practices – not where we currently are, but that we'll be ready to play by the first game against Ole Miss."

When asked about whether there was one position in particular that he liked the competition at, Mendenhall said it was more a case of what position he didn't like. He specifically said he was pleased with the competition at tight end, receiver, running back, secondary, linebacker and offensive line.

First scrimmage session

Jake Heaps got the first set of reps with the first-team offense. However, the defense stopped the Cougar running backs on three consecutive plays, with J.J. Di Luigi rushing for no gain, Joshua Quezada losing a yard, and Bryan Kariya only managing to get back to the line of scrimmage on third down.

Heaps then started off the next set, which was more successful. Back from his mission after playing as a true freshman in 2008, Kaneakua Friel caught an 8-yard pass. Di Luigi then rushed for 1 yard before Quezada broke a 16-yard run to move the chains.

Coaches then substituted in Riley Nelson at quarterback with the ones on offense. He fumbled the ball on the first play, leading to a loss of 5 yards. Drew Phillips made that up with a 5-yard rush.

Next to get his shot with the ones was James Lark, though his only play of the set a hand-off to Di Luigi, who gained 3 yards on the play.

Heaps then got back in the scrimmage. Phillips had a 2-yard rush before Preston Hadley recorded a sack. After a 1-yard Quezada rush and a then a 6-yard rush by Kariya, Heaps connected with a streaking McKay Jacobson for a 60-yard touchdown pass.

Second scrimmage session

During the second scrimmage session, the quarterbacks were allowed to sustain longer drives instead of being rotated frequently.

As usual, Heaps was the first one up. The drive began with Kariya being stopped at the line of scrimmage. Devin Mahina then caught an 8-yard pass. On third down, Quezada caught a swing pass but was stopped for no gain by Uona Kaveinga. Quezada probably should have picked up the first down, as he appeared to make Kaveinga miss, but with the scrimmage not being full-contact, the play was whistled dead fairly early.

Nelson got in for the next drive. First, Phillips rushed for 1 yard. Nelson then completed a 23-yard pass to J.D. Falslev, and Quezada had 3-yard rush. Afterwards, Nelson and Falslev then teamed up again for another big completion, this one going for 27 yards. The drive, however, stalled following an incompletion, a 2-yard rush by Michael Alisa, and a pass that was broken up in the end zone by Robbie Buckner. The subsequent field goal attempt didn't have much of a shot thanks to bad snap.

Heaps took command of the next set. On the first play, Di Luigi lost two yards on a rushing play that was doomed as Eathyn Manumaleuna got great penetration. DeQuan Everett was flagged for defensive holding on the following play, however. Heaps completed an 8-yard pass to Falslev, and then a 3-yard pass to Ross Apo that probably could have gone for more if not for an early whistle. Heaps recorded his third consecutive completion with a 30-yard pass to an open Mahina downfield. This play too could have gone for more, but Mahina had to go up high to catch the pass and fell on the way down. Di Luigi lost a yard on his next run, and an unnecessary roughness penalty on the offense, a 10-yard pass to Apo, and an incompletion on third down ended the set.

Lark got to lead the final set of the day. Phillips began with a 4-yard rush, and linebacker Connell Hess recorded a sack on the next play. Tight ends Matthew Edwards and Bryan Sampson recorded receptions of 15 yards and 6 yards, respectively, before Sae Tautu ended the set by intercepting a pass that bounced off an offensive player.

Practice notes

- After sitting out Friday's practice while his foot was in a boot due to ankle pain – the cause of which wasn't known – Cody Hoffman was out of the boot on Monday and participating in practice.

- If Monday's practice was any indication, the offense will be utilizing more variety when it comes to formations next season under Coach Doman. They didn't show anything that hadn't been seen under Robert Anae, but did line up in formations that previously had been used very sparingly.

- Michael Alisa has been moved from running back to fullback because of lack of bodies at that position this spring. Mendenhall said it was also an opportunity to get Alisa more reps at a relatively similar position, and it won't necessarily be a permanent move.

- Mendenhall said there won't be a traditional spring game, but rather a practice similar to what they've done in the past. "Again, I don't think that we're looking to peak on day 15 of spring," he said.

- Mendenhall noted that his players were very excited for the basketball team's run to the Sweet 16, and said the team's success was very good for the school.


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