"It was the first day and we have a lot of high expectations," Unga said struggling to catch his breath. "We met a lot of them today. As the season comes up we still have a lot of room for improvement, but if we keep going like we're going, we'll be really good.
In evaluating the overall team performance on the first day of fall practice, the defense held its own rather well against an offense that is expected to be very good. In his limited showing on the day, Unga faired well when given the chance to perform.
"The first day was kind of rough," said Unga. "What helped me out was coming to summer voluntary practices. That helped me out a lot along with our running back group. They also helped me out a lot. They're a bunch of good brothers and leaders that showed me the ropes. This practice was a bit rough being the first one for me, but it showed me a lot of good things too. Learning this offense is going to be fun and I can't wait to get back out there."
During the off-season, the football players worked out within each other in groups based on their positions and Unga attributes his performance to his teammates and the year long lay-off. Being a running back, Unga worked out with Fui Vakapuna, Manase Tonga and Curtis Brown, who taught him the ins and outs of being a running back at BYU.
"A lot of it is just getting to know the plays, the blocking schemes, the passing schemes and a lot in the weight room," said Unga. "We worked out in groups and I worked out with the running back's group with Curtis Brown, Fui Vakapuna, Manase Tonga and the whole crew. They pushed me along to help me to get stronger and to learn the position better."
The off-season workout program seemed to have paid off. During Saturday's practice, the 6-foot tailback took reps with the second team. Unga, who at one point weighed nearly 240 pounds, was down to a lean and cut 225 pounds.
"It's been a long time coming," said Unga with a smile. "It's been a long year training and what not. I stuck it out and now here I am. I'm definitely glad to be here.
"I feel good coming off that year. I'm working on getting stronger, faster and smarter so I can get better to help the team when I'm called upon. I'm down to 225 pounds so I'm a lot more agile and quicker. Right now I'm just trying to pay my dues so I can work my up there and earn my respect from the players and the coaches."
At one point during Saturdays practice, the backfield looked very formidable with Unga lining up behind 6-foot-1, 234-pound tailback Fui Vakapuna in the I formation. The play resulted in one of the better runs on the day.
With Vakapuna leading the way up the middle, Unga bounced outside, turned on the jets and beat the defense to the corner. It was an encouraging sign for Unga's first official carry as a Cougar.
"You can't ask for a better set of full backs," laughed Unga. "With Fui in front of you running like he does and Manase Tonga in front of your clearing out the way, those are some powerful fullbacks right there. I'm really privileged to run behind Fui, you know, and there might come the day when I'm leading the way blocking for him. Either way it goes hand in hand whether I'm running behind him or he's running behind me it's going to be good."
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