Having incoming players immediately report to the scout team during their first year is where Coach Mendenhall aims to take the program. With most of the players on the roster having undertaken scout team duty, Mendenhall feels it will lead the program to new heights.
"I think it's in relation to program maturity," said Mendenhall regarding the incoming freshmen accepting their roles by and large. "We have more depth and more upperclassmen than we've had in relation to the previous two years."
Mendenhall has mentioned in previous interviews how well those incoming players prepared themselves physically, but as redshirt years were discussed among them, he came to understand the mental preparedness most of them had.
"I think they were prepared at a higher level," said Mendenhall regarding his true freshmen. "My hope is that it will continue as the program continues to grow and build. I don't want to discourage any freshmen coming in and thinking they can play, but my hope is that they will have the chance to redshirt at the beginning."
Under a Watchful Eye
Now that the scout team has been formed, Mendenhall will be taking sharp notice of how players are performing and will make adjustments accordingly.
"From what I saw today I was encouraged," said Mendenhall regarding his initial assessment of the scout team work. "We'll watch the film as coaches and then what we'll do is watch key individuals to see if they're struggling or not performing where we feel they could, and we'll catch that immediately. We do this to let them know that number one, we are watching, and number two, that they have a role and an influence on how we play on Saturday, and it is important and we hold them to a very high standard."
"I'm trying to envision number-96 there and number-54 there," said Aulai, referencing the two Arizona tackles he'll be going against. "I try to envision that it's Arizona. It's a little hard because it's not the real thing, but that's what you have to do."
The mental preparation perhaps takes center stage ahead of the physical preparation that is somewhat the focus during two-a-days. Aulai said he's preparing mentally for what Arizona will bring and the keys he'll have to read.
"It's all mental right now," said Aulai. "I'm trying to think every down what number-96 will be since he sort of got the better of me last year. Now I know his moves and his tendencies better and it's all about preparing to go against him."
"I love it," said Doman. "I haven't played since high school, so being on the scout team is great for me. I just want to do the best I can in preparing the team for whatever offense they're going against."
Doman noted Hall's progression through being on the scout team last year, and is anxious to follow suit.
"Max had fun with it last year and that's the attitude I'm taking," said Doman. "We're having fun, talking a lot of trash, and we're going to make the most of it."
But Doman is readily mindful of what the true purpose of the scout team is. That purpose is to prepare the team as much as possible for what the Cougar defense will face on game day.
"That's what we do," said Doman. "That's the most important thing. What we do on the scout team can really help what the team does during games and we'll take pride with that throughout the year."
Mendenhall noted that the kick return responsibilities will fall on Bryce Mahuika, Austin Collie and G Pittman, in that order. Pittman's spot on the kick returning depth chart will mainly depend on ball-control issues.