Spring practice report: offense day 1

It was the first day of spring camp and inside the indoor practice facility the Cougars were out in full force. The practice had a faster tempo than what was seen a year ago. The overall energy was high, and when coupled with the tempo, that led to a feistier first day than what's normally expected.

Overall it was a very good first day of spring practice, and both sides of the ball got off to a fast start, which resulted in a midfield altercation between the offense and defense. Breaking down the effort and results from the day one, here is how it looked.

Quarterbacks

As expected, Riley Nelson took charge of the first-team offense. In the drill portion of Monday's practice, Nelson took charge – even coaching some of the new players such as Taysom Hill on how to properly go through the procedures – and had the best results. Nelson is the undisputed team leader and it showed on the first day of spring camp. Though the team practiced without pads, Nelson definitely has a command of the offense and made good reads downfield. He looked to pass more out of the pocket rather than run during team scrimmaging.

James Lark ran with the second-team offense and showed a little more poise in the pocket – his feet were constantly set and his eyes constantly scanning downfield – which is what you want to see more of while playing without pads. Lark still needs more reps but looks confident and poised. He'll need more reps and will now get those, knowing he could be called upon at any given time during the season.

Taysom Hill ran with the third-team offense and it is visibly noticeable how athletic he truly is. Although he's been away from the game for a while, and was a little rusty in the quarterback drills, his arm strength was visibly noticeable while throwing a tight ball. Hill will need some time getting used to the speed of the game and making timely reads downfield. He should grow into a very good Cougar quarterback.

McCoy Hill also throws a strong ball and performed well in drills requiring him to drop back, read and throw. However, he will need some time under Coach Doman's tutelage to work on his mechanics, as expected. Hill has good size and is also athletic.

Ammon Olsen was a real surprise during Monday's position drills. He has a strong arm and threw with authority. Much like McCoy Hill, Olsen will need a little time to get used to the quarterback position drills, but that should come with repetition. His release was good and his footwork was decent and fairly sharp while dropping back.

Running backs

The two that stood out Monday were Michael Alisa and Joshua Quezada. Alisa ran with more authority and looked more comfortable in the backfield. However, what stood out more with Alisa in the first day of spring camp than last year was the pass-catching part of his game.

Like Alisa, Quezada also did very well in catching passes. While Quezada won't beat many out on the edges, he is running with more authority and precision. He looks more comfortable both in the run and passing game. Both Alisa and Quezada will have to step up their game in the absence of J.J. Di Luigi and Bryan Kariya and become more diverse within the offense. On Monday, both running backs played a greater part in that offensive diversity.

Wide receivers

Cody Hoffman was, well, his normal self, but there were a few other receivers that looked very good. There was a little more confidence from Ross Apo, and it showed in his route running.

The other receiver that made an impression on Monday and could see the field at some point was Terenn Houk, who will remind many of Apo with his style of play. Houk even wore the number 11 jersey, fooling many watching from the sidelines into thinking he was Apo (who now wears the number one). Houk is smooth and plays the outside receiver position behind Hoffman.

Jordan Smith is another wide receiver that had a good first day of practice. Smith ran behind Apo and, with another year under his belt, is similar in size and athletic mold to Houk.

With J.D. Falslev suited up but not involved in Monday's drills or team scrimmage, the one wide receiver that won the "caught my eye" award was Dallin Cutler. Cutler played the slot and ran some of the crisper routes of the day both in skeli drills and team scrimmaging. He's quick off the line and gets in and out of his routes quickly and smoothly.

In regards to getting off the line quickly and into his routes, Apo did that very well on Monday. Both he and Cutler were the two that impressed the most during the skeli period. If Apo stays healthy and continues to run his routes like he did Monday, it should be a good year for the sophomore receiver who has put on a little more size to his frame.

The surprise wide receiver of the day goes to 5-foot-8-inch, 175-pound speedy John Lamont of Warrenton, Virginia. Lamont was quick and shifty and came to BYU after transferring from Utah Valley. Lamont played inside receiver and did very well in both receiver drills and skeli drills.

Tight ends

In speaking of size, the one tight end that has added more muscle mass to his frame is 6-foot-4-inch Marcus Mathews. Mathews has gone from about 208 pounds last year to nearly 228 pounds to start spring camp. He clearly has dedicated himself to developing different facets of his game and that showed in the first day of spring camp. He played more roles within the tight end position aside from the flex tight end spot during Monday's team scrimmage. What was most visible about Mathews was along with his added size, he's more fluid and faster downfield. Time and time again, Mathews beat the coverage for deep passes downfield.

Making his return to the practice field was Devin Mahina. Although Mahina didn't perform with the team in scrimmaging, he did run through position drills and looked very good catching balls downfield. Mahina is expected to rejoin the team with full activity in the fall.

Offensive line

With center Terence Brown having graduated, Blair Tushaus got the nod with the first-string offensive line at center. Flanking him at the guard positions were Manaaki Vaitai and Brock Stringham. The duties at left tackle that were left to Matt Reynolds last year fell upon the shoulders of Solomone Kafu on Monday. Michael Yeck, meanwhile, was given the task of protecting the left-handed Nelson's blindside at right tackle. The offensive line gave up a sack to middle linebacker Brandon Ogletree and Ezekiel Ansah, who was rushing on the outside.

Also on the line with the second-team was guard Walter Kahaiali'I, who was in the middle of the midfield mix-up. For the first day of practice, the offensive line played with a chip on its shoulder and mixed it up quite a bit with the defensive line, which resulted in a midfield melee that was eventually broken up by players from the sidelines.

Sideline notes

Green Bay Packer linebacker Vic So'oto was at practice on Monday to watch the linebackers run through drills. Also on hand were former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Chris Hoke, and current NFL Carolina Panther defensive tackle Sione Fua, who was there to watch his brother Alani Fua practice.


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