Fall Practice: Day 1

The Cougar football team ratcheted the level of attitude and expectations up a notch as they officially kicked off their fall practice session on Saturday. Coming off of a very impressive 2006 campaign, the team looks to pick it up in regards to their play and in raising the bar for the coming year.

"It's all over the posters, buses and everywhere," said linebacker Bryan Kehl regarding the Cougars' new slogan. "We're raising the bar and we started it today in practice, but it's been going on since the day after we pounded Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. We're raising the bar."

"We have to go up from where we finished last year," added offensive lineman Travis Bright. "We know what we can do and we can't be satisfied with what we can do or what we did; we have to improve every single day and reach new heights. That's what it's all about this year."

As the Cougars took the practice field on Saturday, any given observer may have witnessed more bounce to the team's step in general, and a more assured step, as opposed to a season ago.

"We know what we can do now and what we did," said Kehl. "Last year it was all about working to try and prove what we believed we could be. This year we know. We know we're the best. We're the top team in the conference and we're the team everyone is gunning for. So yeah, it's definitely changed. I feel we're more confident now as a team."

After five or so years of trying to return the team to the so-called glory of yesteryear, the team feels that they're on the perch of taking the team to new heights. With the ever-ready theme of "raising the bar" on the tips of every player's tongue, the team is set out to do just that.

"We're very optimistic, but we know we have to work very hard knowing everyone is gunning for us," said Bright. "Now the thing we need to prove is that being in the Mountain West, we deserve a chance at the BCS, [and] that we need to be there every year. BYU needs to lead the way."

First Practice

Today's practice was a light session without pads, with the focus being on learning the offensive and defensive keys respectively. The practice included the defensive pursuit drills and everything else that has become standard at a BYU practice.

"It was great," said Kehl regarding his first practice session. "The offseason seriously flew by this year. It seems like just yesterday that we pounded Oregon and now we're practicing again for the new season. I love it."

"It was tough," said Bright. "We worked hard in the offseason, but man, it was pretty demanding physically, but it's nice to get going. We'll get better every day and we'll get better conditioned every day."

For many of the incoming freshmen, the first practice was a tough one, as they haven't see or experienced the sort of physical demand they experienced today.

"Man, I'm beat," said true freshman Eathyn Manumaleuna. "I knew it would be tough, but man, that was brutal. I'll get there and it will be nice to have tomorrow off - I need it - but I hung in there."

Indeed, the conditioning of the incoming freshmen seemed to be at a higher level than it was during the first day in past years, as none of the true freshmen lost their lunch or had to cut their practice session short.

"The new guys did good today," said Kehl. "There are a couple of new guys who stood out and I feel that they did great. They're not where they need to be in general, but most of them will get there. I have no doubt about that after seeing them today."

Practice Notes

Several standout plays were made during the practice-ending 11-on-11 drills. Several highlights of today's practice included:

-Cornerback Kayle Buchanan jumping a couple of out patterns and knocking the passes down, showing why he is the front runner for the open cornerback slot opposite of Ben Criddle.

-Cornerback Brandon Howard intercepted a Max Hall pass intended for Michael Reed in the endzone.

-True freshman G Pittman showed very well in drills going up primarily against fellow true freshman Ryan Kessman. Pittman showed great change-of-direction skills, live and quick feet, and a great nose for the ball.

-Kessman meanwhile showed that he can use his size to shield defenders from the ball, as he was able to use his superior size to out-physical a lot of DBs with seemingly good coverage. Kessman, however, tweaked his ankle and had to have it wrapped, missing several drills during the first day.

-Russell Tialavea knocked down a pass as he dropped a little back into zone coverage. Tialavea was joined by Judd Anderton, who knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

-Mosese Foketi showed early promise, beating the offensive line by recording a sack with the second-team defense.

-Max Hall led the offense to a touchdown drive, completing four of his five passes, before hitting Bryce Mahuika for a score from 18 yards out.

-Running back Fui Vakapuna ran well and looked in decent shape, but is working to get his timing back, and dropped two easy passes, killing a couple of offensive drives during 11-on-11 drills.

-Markell Staffieri ran with the first-team defense at linebacker, along with Kelly Poppinga. Kayle Buchanan played opposite Ben Criddle at the other cornerback spot.

-The pass of the day came with Hall hitting Mahuika up the field for a 40 yard pass.

-J.J. DiLuigi showed well, leaping for an overthrown pass that was behind him on the sideline for a 5-yard gain.

-True freshman Kaneakua Friel caught a pass in the 11-on-11 drills from Brendan Gaskins for 5 yards.

-The second-team defense saw Judd Anderton and Brett Denney at defensive end with Mosese Foketi at nose tackle. The linebackers were Grant Nelson and Chris Bolden on the outside, with Shawn Doman and Matt Bauman on the inside. Brandon Howard and Andre Saulsberry were playing CB with the 2s, with David Tafuna and Kellen Fowler at safety during the first day of practices.

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