Practice Report: Day 12

After a day off to rest up and watch a movie, the team went back to work on Friday. Friday's focus saw the offense working in the blue zone as well as back near the goal line. Following practice, head coach Bronco Mendenhall was pleased with the overall execution of his team.

"I wanted to see our offense respond at a higher level than they did the other day, which they did," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "With most of these things we'll have a chance to give exposure to each situation with every practice."

During blue zone drills, in which the offense started at the 20-yard line, starting quarterback Max Hall threw two touchdown passes, each to running back Harvey Unga. Hall has become more and more familiar with Unga throughout the course of fall practices, and aims to become yet even more familiar with him heading into the season.

"Harvey is awesome," said Hall. "He's really good catching balls over the middle and in running routes. He's someone I'll be looking for a lot this year because he can really help us. You saw it today; he's great at catching the ball and getting downfield."

Unga caught a 20-yard pass and a 13-yard pass for his two touchdowns. On both passes, Hall allowed time for Unga to clear whatever coverage was thrown at the offense so that Unga could be hit for the score.

The other sets during 11-on-11s were designed to primarily see what the defense could do with their opponents' backs against their own goal line. The offense started these reps at their own 3-yard line, and the defense generally ruled these drills.

Mendenhall said that the coaching staff wanted to see if the players were doing what the coaches wanted in regards to holding a team that is backed up and keeping them down there.

The defense very much responded, holding the offense to two straight three-and-outs while Max Hall was under center with the rest of the first-teamers on offense. Hall managed two completions on four passes for a combined 9 yards during the situational drills.

Gaskins Back

Quarterback Brendan Gaskins continues to recover nicely from his broken finger, and participated during 11-on-11s and was able to make most of the throws. It's questionable whether Gaskins will be allowed to scrimmage tomorrow, but he continues to be way ahead of schedule in terms of his recovery.

"[My finger] feels great," said Gaskins. "I'm throwing well and it's great to be back. I'm confident that I'll be fully recovered here soon and certainly in time for the Arizona game."

Scrimmage Plan

Saturday's scrimmage will be limited, as the coaching staff plans to run only 40 plays compared to the 60 run last week. The first-teamers should get about 20 reps. Special teams will be emphasized as well, as the coaching staff looks to improve on kick coverage, returning, kicking and all other factors inherent within the special teams.

Prepping for Arizona

Mendenhall mentioned that game preparation for Arizona might be delayed a bit in part to some unforeseen factors surrounding the team.

"At the end of next week and a little later than normal," said Mendenhall when asked about when game prep would begin in earnest. "Due to some of the depth issues, and now that we have to train some of the new players, there will be some new battles for some of the spots that might prolong [preparation for Arizona] just a hair."

Newbie Watch

Freshman cornerback G Pittman gave a good glimpse during 7-on-7 drills of what sort of talent he has, but also what things he needs to work on as a true freshman. Pittman closed fast on a hook route and intercepted the pass, but later jumped all over a perceived hook route, only to learn that receiver Bryce Mahuika wasn't done with the route. Mahuika made a double-moved and got past the frosh CB for a big gain on a hook-and-go.

Fellow true freshman Jordan Pendleton saw extensive work with the second-team defensive unit, as his teaching process will be accelerated as the coaching staff looks for more depth at safety following the season-ending injuries to Dustin Gabriel and David Tafuna.

"It's hard to say [how much Pendleton will contribute this year] after just one day where he saw significant reps," said Mendenhall. "His learning curve and his experience level will have something to do with it, but one day is not enough."

Until Pendleton or another safety proves worthy of a spot on the two-deep, Mendenhall plans on using Kellen Fowler as the backup at both safety positions, saying that is because of Fowler's knowledge and experience at both positions.

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