"I just worked really hard this summer," said Ian Dulan. "I knew that I had to get a lot bigger if I was to play right away, and all I did was lift weights and it paid off. I'm grateful that the coaches have enough confidence and trust in me to play me right away, and I won't let them down."
Tonga is thankful to be on the two-deep roster heading into the Arizona game, but backup duty is not what he wants to be doing at the end of the season.
"I want to start, and I have to have that mindset," said Tonga. "If I just sit back and say that it's all good that I'm on the two-deep then I'll probably fall back. My goal is to keep on pushing harder and improve every week and aim for that starting spot by the end of the year."
The Cougars look to rotate as many as nine defensive linemen in a game with Hala Paongo, Russell Tialavea and Romney Fuga manning the middle nose tackle position. Tialavea will be held out of the Arizona game due to suspension, but will be a mainstay in the middle for all of the following games. Flanking the nose tackle position will be a rotation that consists of Ian Dulan, Jan Jorgenson, Matangi Tonga, Judd Anderton, Brett Denney and Kyle Luekenga.
The other newcomer breaking the defensive two-deep is cornerback Andre Saulsberry. While Saulsberry is thankful that he has a spot backing up the field cornerback position he acknowledges that he has a long way to go if he is to become the player that he is capable of being.
"I'm still struggling with the coverages," said Saulsberry. "I know that I can compete at this level physically, I have no doubt about that. It's just learning the coverages and not making mistakes. I'm getting there, but I have to get there faster if I'm really going to help this team this year."
Back to what Runs through his Blood
It was expected that several incoming defenders would break the two-deep roster, but rookies on the offense had their work cut out for them given the slate of returning players on their side of the ball. Two new players who fought their way onto the two-deep were true freshmen Braden Hansen and Mike Hague. Both will be counted on to perform and add depth during their first year.
Hague's plans were always to contribute right away and play where the team most needed him. Early on, it appeared that he would be most valuable to the team as a safety, but a rash of injuries forced Hague to move to the HR position, where he settled in nicely.
"I guess playing offense just runs through my blood; it's just that Bengal blood." said Hague referring to his high school alma mater the Brighton Bengals. "I thought I'd help most at defense, but now I'm playing the H-slot receiver, and I'm happy with how it's gone. I just want to help this team my first year and it looks like that's where I'll be helping them, backing up Nathan Miekle."
Hague also looks to be a kick returner along with fellow freshman McKay Jacobson.
"They had me back there, but now it's Curtis [Brown]," said Hague. "Whatever works and whatever is best for the team is what I'm about."
Helping in Other Ways
Quarterback Sam Doman turned in his green quarterback practice jersey for a yellow one. The wardrobe change was necessary to allow Doman to play tight end with the scout team. The Canby, Oregon product is not merely running routes, he is making impressive catches that raise questions about his future as a quarterback.
"The coaches have told me that I can either play quarterback, tight end or linebacker," said Doman. "They feel that I have the athleticism to play any of those positions, and we'll just see how it works out. I love playing quarterback, but we'll probably decide by the end of the year or at least by the spring. I just want to play where I can perform and help the team the most."
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