Practice Report: Day 14

As the team draws closer to its opening game against Arizona, the Cougar coaching staff is intent on preparing the team for every situation. Monday's practice session focused on execution during specific situations, namely overtime, as the Arizona game is now less than two weeks away.

"It was a good workday [and] a chance for a little more installation," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Defensively we had a chance to work situationally at the end for overtime…It was a good workman-like day just like it's been throughout all of camp."

The defense was able to install some new schemes to their overall script, which included an aspect that brought a smile to linebacker Markell Staffieri's face when asked about it.

"The script today had us inside guys, Kelly [Poppinga] and myself, blitzing a lot more," said Staffieri. "So we really wanted to make sure we did that well, since we love to blitz. There are some things we do that are fun and some things that are not so fun, so when the script calls for us to blitz a lot we for sure want to make sure that we're doing that well."

With the new defensive script installed for Monday's practice, the offense struggled during most situational drills.

"Just like any time the defense has [a] new insertion, the exposure is always rough for the offense," noted Mendenhall. "They hadn't seen zero man-blitz until today, and so that was the first look at that, and you can see that it's a tempo change and a different look, so the first exposure any time is where the offense struggles."

11-on-11s

Quarterback Max Hall was greeted rudely by the defense during the first set of reps, as his only pass was incomplete, and a high snap ended the set. Nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna busted through the line to force a loss on a run by Fui Vakapuna.

Brenden Gaskins took the field for the second set and completed 2 of his 3 passes for 11 yards. A sack by defensive end Brett Denney ended the set of reps.

Hall saw a little more success during his second set of reps, going 3-for-6 for 17 yards. Three straight incompletions ended the set, and one of those incompletions came about when cornerback Kayle Buchanan knocked down an attempted pass to Matt Allen.

Buchanan repeated an almost identical play later when he knocked down an attempted pass to Austin Collie. Hall went 2-for-3 during the next set for 8 yards.

Following the regular 11-on-11 reps, Coach Mendenhall gathered the team together to instruct them before starting the next overtime drill.

"That was simply explaining an overtime situation," said Mendenhall. "Since I've been the coach we've had a number of overtime games and what I was emphasizing to them was that the rest of practice was no longer an issue. No matter what had happened, whether they had had a bad game or a good game, what matters most is that they refocus and play [their] best and do what [they're] supposed to do in overtime."

Hall then led the team in its first attempt during the overtime drills. Hall went 2-for-3 during the set for 16 yards, but the defense held them short of the end zone. The next set ended abruptly as cornerback Andre Saulsberry picked off a Gaskins pass intended for Jordan Smith in the end zone.

"I felt we did well today," said Staffieri. "We expected that since we threw a lot more stuff at the offense today. They'll adjust and I'm sure they'll respond better the second time through after seeing the stuff we threw at them; they always do."

Time-tables

Mendenhall mentioned following practice that he'll be sitting down with those players who have a redshirt option available to determine their role this coming year. The redshirt decisions should be solidified by Thursday according to the Cougar head coach.

Wednesday's scrimmage and Thursday's practice have been cancelled, as the staff will reevaluate the team and start game preparation for Arizona come Friday.

"It will give the coaching staff an entire day to re-familiarize themselves with Arizona, knowing that Friday will be our first Arizona practice," said Mendenhall. "It will be a nice chance for the players to take care of whatever loose ends they have to prepare for Arizona."

Buchanan vs. Howard

Kayle Buchanan had a very good showing during Monday's practice, as he continues to battle out with Brandon Howard to see who will see most of the work at the field cornerback position.

"I think it's still very, very close," said Mendenhall regarding the battle for the starting field cornerback spot. "Kayle's consistency in terms of the entire game is a little bit better, but Brandon's cover ability is really, really impressive right now, so Kayle's full game is slightly ahead right now, but it's close."


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