Practice Report: Day 15

With fall camp set to wrap up Wednesday, and the team preparing for its opening match against Arizona, the depth charts are just about set. Tuesday's practice saw the defense tighten up and make some stellar plays, all while some second-teamers are stepping up to make some nice plays themselves.

Not a single completion was made today during 11-on-11s, and the defense held the offense to four straight three-and-outs. Dropped passes and knockdowns of passes over the middle were key to the defense limiting the offense throughout the drill.

One of the highlights included defensive end Brett Denney dropping back into coverage to knock down an intended pass to Manase Tonga. Later on, linebacker Matt Bauman showed some hops while getting a finger on a ball that would have likely been completed to receiver Matt Allen for a touchdown over the middle.

"We did well today," said nose tackle Rick Wolfley. "We came out strong and really dominated today. The offense was a bit off maybe, but we held them [well]."

By a Nose

The nose tackle rotation is forming as the team nears the end of fall camp. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall will run three-deep at the nose tackle position, with true freshman Eathyn Manumaleuna rising to the top of the rotation.

"Surprisingly, our true freshman Eathyn Manumaleuna has been the most consistent up to this point," said Mendenhall. "We really like what Rick Wolfley has done, particularly against the bigger personnel sets. Mosese [Foketi] right now would most likely be the third based on just consistency. He's probably the most athletic, but assignment-wise he needs to gain some ground."

Wolfley said he is more than happy to switch jerseys and play on the defensive side of the ball, and feels he's progressing well.

"I just need to get quicker in my breaks and use my hands more when rushing the quarterback," said Wolfley. "I feel that I'm doing well holding the line and not letting anyone move me on running plays. I just need to get better, but I feel that I have gotten better every day so far."

Having played both ways in high school, Wolfley felt he was well qualified to play the nose tackle position. Despite having battled it out on the offensive line throughout his first year and into his second year, Wolfley mentioned that he already feels more comfortable on the defensive front.

"I feel that I'm a better defensive lineman," said Wolfley. "I felt I was better at defense in high school and I really do feel comfortable playing defense already. I have a lot of work to do and a lot of things to learn, but it's coming well."

So far, Mendenhall has been encouraged by what Wolfley brings to the nose tackle position.

"He's come a long way in a very short time," said Mendenhall.

Back Where He Belongs

Preceding the move of Wolfley to the defensive side was Garrett Reden moving back to the offensive line after practicing with the defense for a couple of days. Reden looks to fulfill a valuable backup role this year on the right side of the line.

"I'm learning both the guard and tackle positions," said Reden. "Right now, if someone on the right side - either at tackle or guard - [gets hurt], I'll be the first guy off the bench to replace either of those positions. On the left side, R.J. Willing will fill in at guard and tackle, so I'm the right-side sub, and R.J. is the left-side sub right now."

So what does Reden consider himself to be, considering he has been practicing at guard and at tackle after trying out a brief experiment on the defensive line.

"I'm an offensive lineman," said Reden. "I know that more than ever, because I tried being a defensive player and it didn't work out so well. I'm definitely an offensive lineman and it feels good to be back with the guys."

Sauls is Well at Corner

The depth at cornerback is shaping up nicely, as there is a healthy battle at the field cornerback position, all while second-year junior college transfer Andre Saulsberry has been making waves at one of the backup roles. Mendenhall has been impressed with Saulsberry's progression and feels comfortable inserting him into the lineup in a backup role.

"I would say Andre Saulsberry is the most improved player on our team at any position," said Mendenhall. "I'm very impressed because he's battled and he's hung in. He came in not prepared - he knew it and we knew it - and he adjusted to this culture [by] making good decisions, and it's really rewarding to me to see his hard work pay off."


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