For most, the jump in comfort level from the first day to the second was extreme.
"Night and day really," said cornerback Brandon Howard of the difference between day one and day two. "Yesterday I felt like we were all nervous, not wanting to do anything wrong and hesitant in just about everything. I guess that's sort of to be expected coming in and practicing at the D-I level for the first time, but I think that all of us were able to do the drills better today. At least for me I felt tons more comfortable and I feel that I'm ready for tomorrow."
Howard stated that he and most of the incoming players spent almost the entire time after practice yesterday meeting with the veterans and better learning what they had to do. The help from seasoned veterans, coupled with getting the first practice under their belt helped all the newcomers.
"Having guys like Chris Hale, Kayle Buchanan, Oneil Howell and Nate Soelberg helping me, Justin [Robinson], Cade [Hulbert] and Zac Erekson helps out so much", said Howard. "They've been so great helping us learn proper technique and how to rely on that technique. Coach Mendenhall wants us to go full speed all the time, but if we're going full speed doing the wrong thing, then it doesn't do much good, especially for us cornerbacks. That's probably what I've learned most since I started, that being to rely on my technique and my reads before going all out."
"It's been tough, but Coach Mendenhall warned us and I expected it to be this tough," said linebacker Terrance Hooks. "It's all good. I'm just glad we get to practice for real tomorrow. I'm ready to go."
Hooks has been hitting the weights hard this off-season, bulking up to 217 pounds to get himself ready to play linebacker. He feels that putting on the weight has not hurt his speed all that much, but he is still struggling a bit getting used to it.
"Not much, just a little", said Hooks about being slowed by his extra weight. "I've been eating a ton while lifting weights. The coaches told me they wanted me close to 220 coming in, so that's what I did."
For Aulai, the sooner and hard the coaches work him, the better.
"We've worked hard the last two days, but I was expecting more, which I'm sure I'll get starting tomorrow", said the offensive lineman. "I came here to work. Coach Mendenhall is all about work and that's what I'm all about. I'm so excited to get started tomorrow that I'll probably have trouble sleeping tonight. It begins for real tomorrow."
Observations from Newcomer Practices
-Vic So'oto at a glance is arguably the new player most ready for to play for at the D-I level. He has a D-I type body and moves extremely well for a player of his size. He is a great all-around athlete who, only due to the existing depth at the YR position, may not play this year, but will certainly push the players ahead of him on the depth chart. One more thing about So'oto, he is still only 17 years of age.
-Physically, Justin Robinson and Brandon Howard could switch numbers and few would know the difference. Both came in at exactly the same height and weight and both have similar blazing speed. Robinson has shown the best technique of all the new corners, but as Howard stated earlier, he made a lot of strides from the first day to the next.
-Luke Ashworth probably saw the most improvement from day one to day two. He did not look bad on day one, but he looked outstanding running drills on the second day. Like So'oto, Ashworth looks like a college player and will likely make a lot of noise throughout preseason practices.
-Stephen Covey looked a lot better today playing safety. Lolo Tenifa is looking like a steal early on for the Cougar program, showing very good athleticism and instincts during drills. Cole Miyahira is probably the one most likely to play and contribute right away with Drew Mugleston a notch below if even that.
-Both Terrance Hooks and Shawn Doman look to be very promising linebackers. Like So'oto the only thing that may prevent them from making noise this year is the depth at the linebacker position, which is the deepest on the team.
-Andrew George is very smooth when he runs his routes and has good speed. Like So'oto, he will have trouble breaking the regular rotation if only for the existing depth at YR. Both look to be very promising receivers and should be able to pick up right where Daniel Coats, Philip Niu and Johnny Harline leave off in the years to come.