Fall camp first day observations

Under a beating sun and a temperature of about 95 degrees, the Cougars were smoking in the August heat. The first day of fall camp got off to a very good start with lots to talk about. Everything from the offensive line to new surprises, as well as newcomer evaluations, are included in the report for the first day of fall camp.

Offensive line

As most have wondered about the offensive line, here is how the group fared on the first day of practice. The offensive line has a ton of potential and a lot of bodies to work with.

The offensive line did fairly well for the first day of fall camp. In observing the first-team unit, one thing was apparent: chemistry still needs to improved upon, as youth has replaced experience. There were some new surprise starters on day one. The first-team lineup was as follows:

LT: Ryker Mathews
LG: Solomone Kafu
C: Blair Tushaus
RG: Brock Stringham
RT: Braden Brown

We have to keep in mind this was the first day of fall camp and the competition is still wide open. The second unit is as follows:

LT: Braden Hansen
LG: Famika Anae
C: Houston Reynolds/Ryan Freeman
RG: Manaaki Vaitai
RT: Michael Yeck/Walter Kahaiali'i

Manaaki Vaitai had to leave early for class, but he is a real candidate to push for time. Walter Kahaiali'i wasn't at practice on Thursday because he was on his honey moon, but he is projected to be a backup to Braden Hansen at right tackle.

Running backs

The primary runner with the first team was, as expected, Michael Alisa. Alisa was quick through the line and very precise. He is heads and shoulders above where he was last year in terms of making decisions and then going. Alisa looked very good during team periods and broke a few runs up the middle to chew up some good ground against the first-team defense.

As far as who took the second-most reps, it would be a tossup between David Foote and Iona Pritchard. Foote was the primary back at the f-back position behind Alisa, but Pritchard also ran the ball while doubling as a fullback. Hine didn't get many reps in team period. Pritchard was the primary fullback with the first-team.

Quarterback poll position

Riley Nelson ran the first-team offense against a swarming defense that showed multiple looks in the secondary. The second team was run by senior James Lark, who had a very good first day. Lark drove the offense down the field and read the defensive secondary very well for the first day of fall camp.

Tight ends

Marcus Mathews is now up to 237 pounds and hasn't lost a step despite the added muscle mass. His flexibility and precision in route running looked really good. In the one-on-one drills, Mathews was a dominant contender against the outside linebackers.

Austin Holt is just a beast on the field and it was good to see him do well in the one-on-one drills against the linebackers. Holt held his own on more than several occasions against the outside linebackers. He seems to trust his leg more, and when it comes to the psychological part of the game, that is a big part of the recovery process.

Richard Wilson got beat a few times in the one-on-one drills and it appears he's not quite where Holt is in terms of trusting his leg, at least as far as the physical part of practice. Wilson did catch a few balls in skeli drills however.

Stehly Reden will have some catching up to do in terms of being at the same level as Mathews, Holt, Wilson, Devin Mahina and Kaneakua Friel. But, he's a big body that moves fairly well. His strength could be in the blocking scheme at this point in time.

The outside linebackers that showed well in the one-on-one drills were Spencer Hadley, Alani Fua and Ezekiel Ansah.

Give me A nickel

The Cougar defense spent a lot of time running a version of the nickel defense that saw Joe Sampson being the primary nickelback. Rotating in with him at the nickel was Mike Hague. Also, Skye PoVey got some playing time at the free safety spot when Sampson was at the nickel. Cougar fans can expect Sampson to lock down that free safety spot when the nickel is being used.

Gettin' Ziggy with it

It was good to see big 6-foot-6-inch, 270-pound Ezekiel ‘Ziggy' Ansah working out with the outside linebackers both in drill activities and during team scrimmaging. Ziggy played the Will side linebacker position in place of Kyle Van Noy, who did run through position drills but wasn't involved with team period. Alani Fua ran with the first-team at the Field side linebacker position.

Newcomer alert!

There were a few newcomers that caught some attention and raised some eyebrows.

Jheremmya Leuta-Doyere: He was very aggressive and light on his feet for his 236-pound frame. During the rush drill pitting the outside linebackers against their position coach Kelly Poppinga, Leuta-Doyere listened well to instructions and was a fast learner. He had violent hands in attacking the bag and nimble feet in getting around to the outside.

Dylan Collie: Is there any doubt that a Collie would come to practice more shined up and ready to go than others? Collie did very well while running routes in Collie-like fashion. He catches and goes, and the fact that he is more polished was evident during the first day of practice in the skeli drills.

Theodore King: King was an eye-catcher during drills. He passes the eye test and is someone that took every bit of instruction from Coach Kaufusi with real intent to improve. He is quick for his size and has active hands in his burst off the line of scrimmage.

New recruit alert

A new offensive lineman recruit, Nic Purcell, was in attendance. He is of Samoan descent and is from the island of New Zealand. Purcell is about 6 feet 6 inches, 295 pounds and is solid. He is a member of the 2014 class and seemed to be enjoying himself at BYU.

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