"They have a long ways to go," answered Mendenhall bluntly following practice.
Did anyone stand out to the first-year head coach as someone who could contribute this coming season? Again Mendenhall answered with a straightforward, "It's too early to tell."
So what exactly did Mendenhall learn from today's session? "I can tell if they're willing, I can tell if they're interested and I can tell if they're in shape. I think I have a decent idea with all of them in all three of those areas."
The newcomers split up into their respective positions and went through regular drills with detailed instruction from their corresponding position coach. They then got together to do light passing drills as they weren't suited up in pads.
Said Vic So'oto regarding the first practice: "It was tough. My gosh, I've never worked that hard during practice in my life. I knew Coach Mendenhall was all about hard work and I thought I knew what to expect, but I really had no idea."
So'oto stood out on several occasions during passing drills snagging some balls while running some impressive routes. One pass of note came when Cole Miyahira lined up to jam So'oto off the line and So'oto met him head, on throwing Miyahira on the seat of his pants as he went on to run his pattern. To Miyahira's credit, he got right up and completed his coverage making up a lot of ground.
"Coaches told us that none of the drills were finesse drills," said So'oto. "That we needed to be physical on every drill, so I just did what they told me to do. I love doing that. I loving getting physical off the line. It's the kind of ball I like to play."
The main focus of the two scheduled practices exclusively for the incoming players is to prepare them to practice with the veterans. "These formats give them the best chance to get some confidence and some semblance of what to do in order to integrate with our veterans," said Coach Mendenhall.
This is something not lost on incoming cornerback Justin Robinson. "It's all about learning the drills and how they do things here as best as possible, so we can compete with the big boys starting on Thursday," said Robinson, "I can see from how I played today that I have a long way to go. I felt I did some good things, but I have to be that much better tomorrow and I aim to do just that. I want to help this team this year."
Robinson was very fluid during the technique drills and provided what was arguably the best coverage on most passing drills. "I know I can play, just give me a chance", said Robinson following practice, "Like I said, what I showed today wasn't me. I was probably a bit nervous, but tomorrow I feel I'll be able to compete better having my feet wet now."
"We'll expand [practice] another half hour and hopefully give them a little bit more of a fundamental base in order to survive against superior experience and talent," said Mendenhall regarding what he looks to accomplish tomorrow with the incoming players. "We'll also give them a little more scheme knowledge and how to get aligned really for the sake of practice integration. When some of these players begin practice on Thursday they'll be third string players when we run through groups and they have to have some idea on what to do."
Regarding Mendenhall's charge to the incoming players Robinson stated: "It's the same thing I knew coming in, it hasn't changed. He wants and demands 100% on every single play and during every single drill. If we do that, then we have a chance. If we don't, then we probably won't have much of a chance at all. It's effort, determination and then making plays and that's what I'm trying my best to do to get ready for the big boys."
-The parents of Matangi and Manese Tonga were in attendance today watching their son work out with the team. Matangi was home in California at football practice.
-Incoming junior college transfer Chris Bolden has been cleared, but is not expected to arrive in Provo to join the team until later this week.
-Travis Bright is not on the preseason roster as he is not ready to practice as of yet. His health will continue to be evaluated, but he is not expected to practice for at least the first couple of weeks.