Three Things to Watch in Fall Practice

As fall practices are finally set to begin on Monday of next week, there are stories just waiting to be developed between now and the season opener against Boston College. TBS staff will be closely watching three intriguing stories to see how each develops throughout fall practice.

1. Finding stability at cornerback.

Yes, this is a recording. Like most seasons in Provo, cornerback will again be a position where there are a lot more questions than answers entering fall practices. Finding players who can provide even adequate play will be the #1 thing to look for in regards to development over the next month.

Nate Soelberg is the only player who you could dare say is a likely starter at this point. Soelberg is a burner who needs to find consistency in his technique to become a solid cog for one half of the CB. Soelberg needs to develop a Cameron Jensen-like demeanor and establish himself as a leader in the secondary.

Kayle Buchanan showed well during the spring playing opposite of Soelberg, but has yet to prove he can consistently cover deep. He is very good in underneath coverage. The same can be said for Nate Hutchinson who missed most of spring practices due to injury.

Chris Hale made some great strides during the spring and looks to be a consistent contributor. He will battle for a spot on the two-deep roster.

A lot of newcomers will hopefully prove adequate and rise to the forefront as they begin working in the system for the first time next week. New corners include Justin Robinson, Brandon Howard, Stephen Covey, Cade Hulbert along with walk-ons Scott Sheffield, Cole Miyahira, Zac Erekson and Lolo Tenifa. Justin Robinson is the one most likely out of the above listed to make some noise having played extensively in the JC ranks.

2. Solidifying the safety position.

Right alongside the cornerbacks are the safeties, who are an integral component in Coach Mendenhall's 3-3-5 scheme. The good news is that there is a lot of young talent ready to blossom among the safety corps. The bad news is that there is a lot of young talent with no real game experience that will be called upon to form the two-deep safety roster.

Dustin Gabriel came out of spring practice as the starting Cougarback, flanked by Spencer White and Quinn Gooch respectively. While White has good experience, Q. Gooch and Gabriel saw scant PT last season.

It is well known that Bronco likes to rotate players on the defense and will likely rotate his safeties this coming season. Players that look to be in the safety rotation at the very least if not nab starting positions include K.C. Bills, David Tafuna and Drew Mugleston among others.

K.C. Bills is the one player who is likely to make the most noise or at least has the most potential to do so. Bills has already proven capable of making an impact on the defensive end playing well and often as a freshman at linebacker. After limping through spring practices at his new position at Kat, Bills looks to go full speed and make an impact at safety. Bills along with Tafuna and Mugleston will all be competing at full speed for the first time and should prove very interesting to watch as the safeties look to be sorted out.

3. Sorting out the wide receiving corps.

The receivers and more specifically the outside receivers are made up of Todd Watkins and everyone else. Watching which wide out will rise up to snag the primary playing time opposite Watkins is something to closely monitor throughout preseason practices.

The primary candidates include Joe Griffin, Michael Morris, Michael Reed, Zac Collie, Matt Allen, Nate Cooper, Riley Weber and Luke Ashworth among others. Nobody established themselves on the outside coming out of spring. Matt Smith was close to doing so, but had his season taken away from him with a late ACL injury.

Griffin has a lot of pub and had some good moments in the spring, but needs more consistency. Morris has yet to compete legitimately due to recovering from his own ACL injury. Reed, like Griffin had moments, but needs more consistency.

Freshman Luke Ashworth has won praise from Coach Mendenhall and his teammates for his performance during summer workouts and looks to continue that upward progression going into official practices.

The inside slot or HR position looks to be primarily manned by Bryce Mahuika who will not be able to practice for at least the first couple of weeks due to injury. Mahuika will rotate primarily with Nathan Meikle who always shows well in practice. Saia Hafoka and Breyon Jones are the others who will provide depth at the HR position.

The big receiver position, or YR slot, was won by Johnny Harline coming out of the spring. It looks to be one of the stronger overall positions on the team as Harline will be backed up with a wealth of experience in Mackey Award candidate Daniel Coats, who looks for better consistency catching the football, and Phil Niu, who is now fully recovered from an injury that held him out all of last season.

Every fall practice session involves player movements up and down the depth chart as the team prepares to field its best face at every position going into the season. There are sure to be surprises and other stories developing which TBS cover at length, but as fall camps are set to open this coming Monday, these three areas will be watched intently by the TBS crew.

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