Spring practice report: day 13

Many Cougar fans are optimistic about the approaching 2011 season and excited about the new coaching staff, and they aren't alone in that. Coach Mendenhall himself has seemingly been reinvigorated by his new staff, and following Tuesday's non-padded practice, he was very positive about the current state of the Cougar football program.

"I've had more fun in the past month and a half or two months, however long it's been, than I've had here in six years, and they are so much fun," Mendenhall said when asked about his new offensive staff. "They're optimistic, they're positive, they're realistic, they have a ton of energy, the players love them, and they're just great staff members."

Mendenhall noted that though there are still some game-management issues to work out, so far the changes to his staff have worked out as he planned.

As for whether or not new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman will be in the booth or not during games, Mendenhall said that he and Doman have gone back and forth a number of times already on whether or not he should. Ultimately, he said it will be Doman's decision.

Departures, new hires, and reassignments have characterized not just the offensive staff, but the entire coaching staff in general since about the middle of last season.

"There were some [coaches] that I wanted to stay that didn't, and some that left that probably we both felt it was time," Mendenhall said. "The idea is I believe the program is capable still of more than what's been accomplished the past six years, and I would like to have visible signs of that yearly, not every other year [or] every third year, and it just felt like we were just kind of plateaued with the existing leadership."

As for his team, Coach Mendenhall offered a short answer when asked whether he believes this year's team could be his most talented.

"I like our chances."

First scrimmage session

The offense had a tough go at it during the practice's early scrimmage session, in which the quarterbacks are traditionally rotated in and out frequently instead of being allowed to lead sustained drives like they are in the scrimmages at the end of practice.

Jake Heaps only completed one of his three passes, a 10-yard pass to Ross Apo. Nelson connected on both of his passes, a 14-yard toss to Austin Holt and a 5-yard pass to Matthew Edwards. James Lark had a 7-yard pass to Rhen Brown, while his other pass was broken up by Daniel Sorensen. Jason Munns completed his only pass, a short toss to Edwards.

Bryan Kariya had two rushes for no yardage, J.J. Di Luigi had seven rushes for 22 yards, Drew Phillips rushed once for a couple yards, and Ryan Folsom rushed once for little gain.

In addition to breaking up a pass, Daniel Sorensen also intercepted Heaps during the session.

Second scrimmage session

After Heaps moved the chains via a 10-yard pass to Rhen Brown, and Di Luigi rushed for 3 yards, the first drive of the second scrimmage session stalled following a Kariya run for no gain and a sack by Alani Fua.

Nelson then engineered what was almost the best drive of the day. He first completed a 31-yard pass to Matt Marshall. After Michael Alisa lost a yard on a running play, he made up for it by catching an 18-yard pass. Folsom and Marshall each caught a 5-yard pass, getting the offense closer to scoring, but Mike Hague ended up intercepting a pass thrown to the end zone a few plays later.

The offense then started both of its two remaining drives in the blue zone. On the first of those two drives, Di Luigi and Kariya rushed for a combined 7 yards before Uona Kaveinga tipped a Heaps pass on third down. Justin Sorensen's field goal attempt from the 13-yard line was good.

During the final drive, Folsom rushed twice for a combined 6 yards. Lark completed two of his three passes. The first completion was to Bryan Sampson for 8 yards, and the other was a 2-yard pass to Alisa on third-and-7. Justin Sorensen again successfully booted through his field goal attempt.

Practice notes

- Joshua Quezada, after spraining an ankle during last Friday's scrimmage, sat out during Tuesday's practice. He was seen walking around, however, without a boot on.

- Cody Hoffman and Kyle Van Noy were also among those that sat out due to some injuries they are nursing.

- O'Neill Chambers made his first appearance during spring camp, watching the team practice on Tuesday. One of his hands was in a cast.

- Jimmer Fredette, fresh off of winning a number of national player of the year awards, also stopped by practice to watch the team. He and Jake Heaps in particular seemed well acquainted with each other.

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