Spring Practice: Day Six

The team went indoors for practice today due to the heavy rains in Provo during the day. It was a practice dominated by defensive play as the offense saw little, if any, headway during drills. The Cougar defense has begun to assert itself a bit more as practices are now full-padded, with the subsequent full-contact.

"We did well today; the intensity was up," said linebacker Dan Van Sweden. "We feel that we have the guys in the program to be a dominating defense and you're starting to see that. We held the offense out of the end zone today and we aim to do that more and more."

First-team will do just fine

A couple of players who have seen almost exclusive reps with the 1s so far this spring due to the injuries of frontline players have been Chris Bolden and Shawn Doman. Bolden has set up shop where Nixon had to vacate due to injury, while Doman has filled in for Markell Staffieri who himself is battling through his own ailments to get back on the field.

"It's where you want to be," said Bolden. "I'm not taking the attitude that I'm just filling in; I want to play, I want to start. I have the opportunity to show well and I plan on taking full advantage of it and stay in there."

Bolden was one of the lead stories heading into fall practices last season before a steady stream of injuries kept him out from battling and contributing to the team. Now that it's behind him, Bolden sees no obstacles in his way.

"I'm healthy and [injuries are] the only thing that's kept me down," said Bolden. "Of course I've improved and I'll continue to improve, but I'm in there competing and I feel that I'm as good as anyone when I can play."

Doman meanwhile saw spot duty at inside linebacker on mostly third and long and passing situations. He showed coaches and fans alike that he has good speed to cover the middle of the field, while being able to make plays from sideline-to-sideline. While he excelled last season on those areas, this spring he's focusing on becoming better in all areas.

"I feel that I can make more of an impact this year," said Doman. "I've worked on all aspects of my game very hard and this year I want to be one of the main guys, not just a guy who fills in here and there during certain situations."

Doman recognizes that he has the best of opportunities to show what he has this spring while filling in for the injured Staffieri. It's an opportunity Doman aims to take full advantage of.

"I'm getting more reps than I ever have before," said Doman. "I'm fighting for that starting spot. When Staffieri comes back I'll continue to battle for it. I'm not going to be satisfied just being a fill-in player."

Like Terrance Hooks, Doman has worked hard to add muscle and weight to become a better-rounded inside linebacker who can take on and scrape off blocks.

"It's hard for me to put on and keep up my weight," said Doman. "I need to gain at least 10 more pounds. I'm between 215 and 220 right now, but I want to get over 230 and stay there. We'll see how that goes this offseason. I'll do everything necessary."

Practice Notes

-Max Hall saw the first set of reps with the first-teamers and completed one of the two passes he attempted for only two yards to Wayne Latu. During the set, Kelly Poppinga busted through the line to drop Latu for a three-yard loss on a running play.

-Cade Cooper didn't fare much better on his first set with the 2s as he was greeted rudely by Brett Denney for a sack on the first play. Dan Van Sweden added a sack of his own to finish out the set. Cooper missed on the only pass he attempted.

-Hall had very similar numbers on his second set of reps, having his only pass fall incomplete. During the set Denney again recorded a sack as he and Bolden got in the backfield as the whistle blew the play dead. Shawn Doman dropped Manase Tonga in the backfield for a three-yard loss after Tonga and Hall struggled with the exchange.

-Cooper finally made some headway on his final set, going 3-5 for 20 yards. Highlights included a nice open field tackle by Jeff Sorenson on a three-yard hitch completion to Rudy Beck. Andre Saulsberry had a very hard hit on Ryan Folsom up the middle, while Ben Poole recorded a sack of his own.

-The best offensive play of the practice was made by Cooper as he went back to pick up a snap that went over his head. He regained his balance and composure while slinging a 10-yard pass to Ryan Neely.

-Former offensive line coach Jeff Grimes was in attendance.

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