That has clearly been visible through the first three days of fall camp, as the depth chart at safety and corner has been anything but consistent. Coach Mendenhall said that will continue as they look to get a better feel for what they have, particularly with the newer players.
"After watching day one, we didn't get enough players reps," Mendenhall said on Monday. "And we have some players that we need to see what they can do, what level of preparation [they show], if they can make plays."
That indeed carried over to Tuesday, with defensive backs being subbed in and out a good deal during scrimmaging. With all reps at corner currently being divided equally, Mendenhall said that they could end up using any combination of corners as the starting two. Meanwhile, he said Daniel Sorensen has the edge at Kat safety, while Jray Galea'i and Carter Mees are battling it out for the second spot. Travis Uale – the lone returning starter – and Mike Hague are neck and neck at free safety according to Mendenhall.
Another area that Mendenhall is looking to gauge is field goal kicking. Justin Sorensen was successful in both of his attempts Tuesday from 47 yards, while missing – albeit not by too much – both of his attempts from 67 yards. As with Monday, there were no defenders attempting to block the kicks, although the defense did try and distract Sorensen by yelling and jumping up and down on the field.
Mendenhall said that "we're just trying to identify the range in which he'll be consistent from. But he has leg from a long ways out and that'll be a great weapon from a kickoff perspective and also from a field goal perspective, so this is just the beginning of finding out what he can do."
Jake Heaps continued the accuracy he had displayed during the first two days of camp, going 4-of-5 for 100 yards and one touchdown on Tuesday. Through the first three scrimmages, he has now completed 16-of-19 passes for 239 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
"Jake is very accurate," said Mendenhall. "I can't count many throws he's missed so far in three practices, including skeli, so I'm impressed."
Not only is Mendenhall impressed with Heaps' overall play, but he said that he was really impressed with one throw in particular on Tuesday. That throw was a 70-yard touchdown to Ross Apo.
"Coverage was exceptional," said Mendenhall. "It was a long, long pass right in stride, and I think that'll be a combination we'll see for a long time here."
Heaps also completed passes to Cody Hoffman and Devin Mahina.
As for the receiving corps in general, Mendenhall said Coach Cahoon is having a positive influence on his players.
"Just the precision starting from their stance, to the way they stem the defensive back, to the way they break, to the way they catch the ball, to the way they finish after they catch the ball, the subtleties are showing up all over the place, and I think they're catching the ball more consistently."
Riley Nelson and Jason Munns each led a short drive, with neither seeing success. James Lark completed both of his passes for 32 yards. Dallin Cutler made a nice catch on a play in which Lark threw downfield after the defense went offsides, and J.D. Falslev caught his other pass.
Ezekiel Ansah recorded two sacks. Had the whistle not been blown on the first of those, Hebron Fangupo wouldn't have had his pick-six off of Riley Nelson negated. The other sack came against Munns.
- Regarding having to play in the heat and humidity at Ole Miss right off the bat (and that's not even mentioning playing in Texas the next week), Mendenhall said they are preparing by emphasizing conditioning, and will also have to play a lot of different players. "I think it affects the defense more than the offense, and so each day the conditioning level kind of goes up and up and up, and that'll give us a chance to fight it."
Mendenhall said that after coaching at Louisiana Tech, he's aware of the humidity in the South. "IVs are commonplace at halftime. We're basically telling our players an IV doesn't mean you're going to the hospital, it means you're getting ready for the second half."
- The following players participated in catching simulated punts from the jugs machine on Tuesday: Ross Apo, Cody Hoffman, McKay Jacobson, J.J. Di Luigi, J.D. Falslev, Cody Raymond, Rhen Brown, Jordan Smith and Jordan Johnson.
- Austen Jorgensen took Brandon Ogletree's place with the first-team defense on Tuesday, as Ogletree was held out as a precaution after experiencing some groin tightness.
- Romney Fuga scrimmaged with the ones for the first time this fall. Jordan Richardson also returned to action, batting down a Lark pass at the line of scrimmage.