Wednesday's practice notes and quotes

Practice was only open for the last half-hour again on Wednesday. However, there were some observations to be had during that portion of practice.

On the first play of team 11-on-11s, Nelson hooked up with Alex Kuresa – who changed his number again to 15 – for a 60-yard touchdown reception. It was a good way to start off the team period.

"I'm having so much fun," said Kuresa. "Regardless, football is supposed to be fun and it is fun. As long as I'm playing I'm going to enjoy it because it doesn't last long, and that's something that I've learned. I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts."

Lining up at the z-receiver position, Kuresa brings quickness, intelligence and hunger to beat the man lining up in front of him.

"I feel like I'm a pretty shifty guy," said Kuresa, who has a wide range of athletic abilities outside of being a shifty route runner. "I'm not the fastest guy but I'm fast enough to be where I need to be. I feel like if I can get the ball in the open field, I can make some plays. I'm hoping to do that this year and help the team out."

Although a redshirt freshman playing the outside receiver for the first time in his college career, Kuresa's approach is one of veteran disposition. He has the confidence to match his athleticism and fully expects that to carry him onto the field this year.

"I do, I do," Kuresa said with a smile. "I feel like you should approach it like that all the time if you're going to get on the field, so that's the mindset I'm taking and I'm trying to battle for a spot. I'm trying to get on the field, so yeah."

Coach Doman said he expects Kuresa – who could outside receiver, inside receiver, h-back or quarterback – to see the field in some capacity prior to leaving for his mission.

Kuresa hopes to switch back to his old position of quarterback when he returns from his mission.

"I'm hoping to, and I'm a quarterback and that's my first love," Kuresa said. "When I come back Taysom [Hill] will be a senior, and if I can get on the field in another way, having already used my redshirt, then I'll do that. I just love playing the game, so I'll do what I need to."

Along with Kuresa, Dylan Collie also received some playing time during Wednesday's team practice on the outside. Collie, Kuresa and Cody Raymond are all doing a fantastic job and are making the case to see the field at some point in time this season.

Offensive line

It's been a few weeks now of evaluating practice. In watching the team portion, it appears the offense is beginning to solidify most of the offensive line positions. Here is how it's appears to be shaking up.

Left tackle: Ryker Mathews
Left guard: Braden Hansen
Center: Either Blair Tushaus or Houston Reynolds, with Ryan Freeman backing up. The battle for the starting center position appears to be an ongoing one primarily between Tushaus and Reynolds.

Right guard: Brock Stringham and Manaaki Vaitai, with Freeman in the mix. The right guard position, by my evaluations, is still in play.
Right tackle: Braden Brown, Michael Yeck

"Things are going really well from an offensive line standpoint," said Braden Brown. "This time around we're about halfway through camp, and we came to camp in much better shape than before. Usually in the past, this is about the time where we would start to plateau. This year it's felt a lot different and everyone feels pretty good as a team. It's helped us practice harder and practice longer than before."

The offense and defense are still holding to a high level of intensity despite being far along in fall camp. Both sides are competing with intensity despite the lack of full pads and full contact.

"I think as an offense we're playing really well," said Brown. "There still are a few positions that haven't been solidified and we're trying to figure that out. Overall as an offense we're progressing where we need to and we're playing better than a lot of people expected coming into camp.

"We have a lot of guys with a chip on their shoulder. I think we have a lot of guys that want to dispel any lingering notion that we as an offensive line or as an offense can't go out be a dominant group. We want to erase that notion and erase it quickly."

Linebacker problem a good one to have

Coach Poppinga continues to give many of his players reps at both the Sam and Will linebacker positions.

"There is a lot of talent at those positions, which is good," said Spencer Hadley. "All that can really be done is for everyone to go out and continue to battle and be consistent. That's what I try to do and let the coaches figure it all out."

And therein lies the problem, a good problem to have when it comes to being a coach trying to decipher who among the group has risen to the top.

"There are a lot of guys that can play and I think the coaches will sort it out," Hadley said. "We even got guys who don't play that position that probably could come in and learn it and play who are on our defense."

Those players that Hadley spoke of are Kat safety Daniel Sorensen and free safety Craig Bills. Those two defensive backs are big enough, fast enough and aggressive enough to play the Sam linebacker position.

"Yeah, we have a lot of talent on the defense and what makes it so tough is that we have a lot of guys that could be interchangeable," Hadley said. "That's how much talent we have on this team and it's a good problem to have. I think you'll see a lot of talented guys playing hard and being consistent in every aspect of the defense."

Middle linebackers

Holding steady at Mike and Buck linebacker are Uona Kaveinga and Brandon Ogletree. Running with the second team during team period were Uani Unga and Tyler Beck, followed by Zac Stout and Manoa Pikula.

"It's a good problem to have," said Coach Tidwell when speaking of solidifying a depth chart. "We've got guys that are experienced and the three seniors of Ogletree, Kaveinga and Austen Jorgensen are fantastic examples of being smart, knowing the system and being hard workers. They've set the standard on how to practice and how to do things, and some of the young guys coming up, seeing how they do things, are learning that."

Coach Tidwell feels comfortable playing a number of guys.

"I wouldn't hesitate to put Uani Unga, Zac Stout, Tyler Beck, Austen Jorgensen and Manoa Pikula in a game. I think they're smart, physical and hard workers. If we get into a game and Brandon Ogletree and Uona Kaveinga are taking a lot of reps or we've get a lead, I can't wait to get those guys in and let them play and get some reps."

As previously mentioned, Unga and Beck got some reps on Wednesday with the second team, as well as Stout and Pikula.

"It's a daily thing, you know, and I ask them to compete daily and we put a different depth chart up with changes," said Coach Tidwell. "It's a daily grind where they're competing. You know, one day Tyler Beck might be the second Buck and the next day Manoa Pikula might be the second Buck.

"They're continually working and pushing. It's the same thing on the Mike side with Uani, Zac and Austin Jorgensen, who could come in and play both sides. It's a great luxury to have and I hope to keep it going year after year."

Young hitters above the norm

There are three young freshman middle linebackers that Coach Tidwell was very complimentary of.

"The three young freshmen that came in this year have learned and picked up the position faster than any group I've seen," Tidwell said. "They are Butch Pau'u, Rhett Sandlin and Nate Sampson. Those three guys are far ahead because of being here over the summer and having the type of leadership that they all have."

Dispelling the rumors

After Richard Wilson posted a photo of two knees being iced on his Twitter account, fans immediately wondered whether he had suffered another leg injury. We are happy to report that Wilson is in good health.

"No, it was just a photo of me and Austen [Jorgensen] icing up our knees," Wilson said. "That's all."

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