Pitta and So'oto Talk About Performance

On Wednesday, the Cougars of BYU came out crisp and sharp, fulfilling their goal of making the most of the time they have to practice. On Thursday, the goals were much the same. So how did the Cougars perform on Thursday, the first day of full pads prior to two-a-days are set to begin?

After a fantastic performance during Wednesday's scrimmage, the Cougars of BYU looked to come out with a repeat performance on Thursday.

"Like always, we wanted to come out and execute," said tight end Dennis Pitta. "I'm sure it was the same with the defense as well. We as a team wanted to come out and play physical, play smart and try not to get anyone hurt by keeping people off the ground. I think we did a good job today and it was definitely physical. We got a good workout."

Despite the fact that the players had donned full pads, the coaches were still quick with the whistle in an attempt to try to keep players from receiving any injuries. The physicality of the scrimmage and the tempo of practice could have been increased if players didn't have the thought of injuries lingering within the back of their minds.

"Obviously we want to keep people healthy and not hit people to the ground," said Pitta. "The coaches were blowing the whistle to try to prevent any injuries, but we did come out and play hard."

The scrimmage results weren't quite as highly charged and as sharp as Wednesday's overall performance. This could be due to the nature of what the team was practicing on, among other things. Pitta, however, feels that it could also be due to the fact that the intense and high-energy practice sessions may be catching up with them as the week wears on.

"I think we're getting closer to the end of the week and bodies are a little fatigued," Pitta said. "We just have to maintain our focus and keep playing hard to fight through it. This is something that happens, but even this allows us as a team to respond to a bit of opposition by overcoming it. We need to get better and today we were a bit sluggish offensively, but we're going to continue to work hard to get better no matter what.

"However, there is a big difference in the way that I'm playing now than when I was playing in the spring. I feel a lot more conditioned and I now have my legs under me. Conditioning is a huge part of what we do and in order to perform at a high level you have to be able-conditioned, especially when you're playing in a high-tempo offense and [participating in] practices that are also high-tempo."

Pitta has worked his way into first-team offense competition along with Vic So'oto and Andrew George. After getting wet during a team activity earlier this week and sitting on an air conditioned bus on the way home, So'oto has been nursing a mild sickness, which has hampered his fall camp performance thus far. However, it hasn't stopped the talented tight end from making an effort on the practice field.

"Right now Dennis Pitta, Andrew George and I will just rotate in with the ones," said fellow sophomore tight end Vic So'oto. "We'll rotate in seven-on-sevens, skeli drills and one-on-ones. We're sharing reps to try to get better. It's been tough but it's fun. The other day we put in more of our double tight end stuff and before that we did some of our single tight end stuff."

Pitta doesn't quite feel as if he is physically back to 100 percent, despite his personal progress from working out over the summer. Despite such, Pitta's fall camp performance has been steadily improving, and he even scored one of the two touchdowns thrown by Max Hall during Wednesday's scrimmage. Pitta, along with So'oto and George, looks to play a key role in this year's offense.

"I feel I'm at about 80 percent right now," Pitta said. "I don't feel that I'm all the way there yet but I do feel that I'm making progress [as] more practices continue. It has been frustrating at times, but at the same time it's been something that has motivated me to improve because I know where I can be."

Despite being hampered by a minor illness, So'oto feels his progression on the field has come by way of his personal performance within the weight room prior to fall camp. When he's able to shake clear this nagging illness, he'll be able to put his newfound talents to better use on the field.

"I feel I've progressed from spring to now," So'oto said. "I've spent a lot of time with Coach Omer in the weight room and had been lifting and running hard. I just feel like I'm more conditioned than before and I'm faster and stronger. I'm benching 400 pounds and I'm squatting at around 500. My clean is sort of my weak spot though. I'm only cleaning around 330."

On Thursday, BYU's secondary got a good workout by performing mostly in single coverage. Outside linebackers David Nixon and Bryan Kehl did receive some help from safeties over the top, but the tight ends mostly battled with BYU's outstanding linebackers during the day's activities.

"Our secondary is going a great job," said Pitta. "They've obviously improved and are making good reads. They're playing well and we have to really work hard in order to get open. I'll tell you what though, we have a great corps of linebackers on this defense that we as tight ends face every day. Facing these guys helps you to get better really quickly because they're so physical and fast.

"It's a real privilege to go head up against these guys because it's making us better as a corps. They're veteran guys and we're coming in for guys that have moved on, so being able to compete in this situation will help us as whole to be better at our position. Our tight ends all have unique abilities and strengths and so we're all a little different.

"But one thing we all have in common is that we all play hard and we're very competitive. Right now we're trying to fill a role and get better within that role, and one way to accomplish that is by developing against linebackers that have a lot of experience and have faced some great linebackers over the years."

"I felt we came out and did well, but I felt our secondary and linebackers did a great job also and represented out there," said So'oto. "We tried hard today and Max [Hall] scored a couple of touchdowns today. We just gotta keep fighting through things, and [Hall] has been learning the offense really well, and is feeling more and more comfortable out there as each practice goes on. It's only going to get better."

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