Practice Report: Day 5

The team went with full pads for the first time Thursday, as the team moves closer to their opening game against Arizona. Thursday's practice saw continued emphasis on run-blocking and harder hits due to the full pads, which led to a few scuffles among teammates.

"Yeah, it was a little tense out there for some drills," said offensive lineman Travis Bright. "That's what happens sometimes. It's football, but we all leave it on the field."

During the so-called Cougar drill where two offensive players go against two defensive players in run-blocking, the play got a little chippy, which resulted in a rugby-like scrum as the offensive players and defensive players converged after some late hits took.

Such is the case during practices when the intensity goes up as the team works to prepare itself as best as possible, both physically and mentally, for the coming season. Thursday's scuffle didn't involve any fists being thrown and was settled soon after it began, with the team once again going about its business.

Increased Pursuit

One of the key issues that head coach Bronco Mendenhall addressed following Wednesday's practice was the overall hustle and pursuit of the defense. Following the practice, Mendenhall emphasized better pursuit and hustle on the practice field.

"Yeah, he wasn't too happy with how we ran to the ball yesterday," said defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna. "So they kicked our butt today. It was probably the hardest practice we had as defensive linemen."

The increased focus on pursuit and hustle by the defense appeared to pay off during Thursday's practice, as the defense held firm during 11-on-11 drills, leading to a bevy of three-and-outs from the offense.

"We didn't come out good as a defensive line, but we got better as the practice went on," said Manumaleuna. "We just need to keep active and doing what they tell us and we'll improve. If we don't, then they'll kick our butt again."

11-on-11s

As mentioned, the defense held firm during most reps, causing many three-and-outs. The offense was putting together a new script, which was met by a few defensive wrinkles. These two things led to a defensively dominated practice by and large.

-Linebacker Bryan Kehl stood out as he met Fui Vakapuna in the backfield on a swing pass, forcing the play to be whistled dead for a two-yard loss. Kehl followed that up by picking off a pass thrown by Max Hall as Kehl dropped in zone coverage.

-Sacks were recorded by both Kelly Poppinga and Markell Staffieri from the inside linebacker positions, as both alternately took on a fullback to get to the quarterback with a good combination of speed and strength.

-Cornerback Scott Johnson picked off a Jason Munns pass intended for Manase Tonga on a wheel route. Johnson was also able to lay the wood pretty hard on Vakapuna during a run off-tackle, making Vakapuna lose his balance.

-Joe Semanoff made a nice seal block, which was able to spring Tonga for a big gain

-Max Hall had a 65-yard pass to Austin Collie go for a touchdown, but the pass was called back because the whistle blew right before Hall released the pass, as defensive linemen got too close to him in the non-contact drill.

- Bright got the better of Kehl, pancaking him to the turf on a pull-block on an off-tackle run.

"Yeah, I probably shouldn't have done that because he'll get me back," said Bright. "It was just right there, the perfect timing, so I drove him pretty hard. I'll probably have to let up on that a bit in practice in the future."

-The final set saw the offense get the ball into the endzone during a two-minute drill. Hall went 7-of-8 for 48 yards. The drive ended with Hall hitting receiver Matt Allen in the endzone from 10 yards out, which was Allen's third straight catch during the set

Newbie Watch

As we've been watching the newbies, the veteran players have been as well. Defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen has been watching his new teammates on the defensive line closely and been giving them plenty of instruction early on.

"I like them a lot, I've been impressed," said Jorgensen when asked about what he's seen from true freshmen Eathyn Manumaleuna and David Angilau. "Those guys can play for sure. They're getting the technical stuff down, but just coming in, I've been very impressed with their play so far."

Both Manumaleuna and Angilau saw reps with the 2s and the 3s during practice.

Practice Notes

-Safety Dustin Gabriel will have surgery and miss the entire coming year. David Tafuna, Corby Hodgkiss and Kellen Fowler will battle it out to see who takes Gabriel's spot as the starting strong safety.

-James Lark is in the process of receiving his mission papers, which he'll send in as he plans on leaving for his mission right after the season.

-Michael Reed, Ryan Kessman, Matt Reynolds and Mosese Foketi all were held out during 11-on-11 drills after sustaining minor injuries. All four aren't expected to miss much practice time.


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