"I think the biggest thing is winter workouts get harder and harder every year," said Hall. "Everything gets harder: the conditioning, the running, the lifting, and they increase it year after year. If you're not mentally tough, it's hard to get through it."
Some newcomers from the skill positions that are looking to get into the swing of things early are wide receivers Luke Ashworth and Spencer Hafoka. Ashworth is in great shape. Hafoka returned his good physical condition, but Ashworth looks to be in the same category as Fui Vakapuna and Bryan Kehl in regards to physical condition upon returning from an LDS mission.
"[Ashworth and Hafoka] are two guys that can definitely step up and play for us," said Hall. "Right now they're kind of shaking the missionary rust off but they did get through all of the conditioning workouts, which was very tough for them. But both of them look good. Luke looks fast and he's learning the offense. He had some playing time in the offense before serving his mission, and he a guy that is explosive and can play. Right now he's running with the second team and kind of getting his feet wet to know what to do. We think he can contribute in the fall and it's the same thing with Spencer. Both will play that X position behind Michael [Reed]."
Ashworth and Hafoka are coming into a situation much similar to what Dennis Pitta and Austin Collie came into last year; Pitta and Collie were returned missionaries that had to learn by getting their feet wet. However, both turned out to be major contributors in last year's 11-2 season.
"I think it will be a little more difficult for [Ashworth and Hafoka] because they have Austin Collie and Mike [Reed] ahead of them," said Hall. "Last year we lost everybody coming back so it made things a little easier for Dennis and Austin, but I think it could be a situation like how Matt Allen would come in and play and do some things for us. Hopefully we can get them in."
The offensive efficiency from Thursday's practice was quite amazing, and one has to feel a bit for the defense, which does a lot of running and pursuing. But to Hall, the one thing the pre-spring camp workouts do is help the team come together more unified.
"When the winter workouts get harder and hard, what it does is it bring the team together more," said Hall. "No one finishes a drill until everybody is done. Everybody is helping each other out, and I think what it does is it builds team chemistry. It teaches you how to work together and how to work hard with each other. Some people say it translates over onto the field, and some people say they don't think it does. We think it does and it's showing because this is the fastest start of spring ball that they've had here in a long time."
Max Hall and the first-team Cougar offense stepped out onto the practice field inside the Indoor Practice Facility on Thursday and absolutely lit it up. The quickness of execution, and the precision by which it was done caught the eyes of many standing along the sidelines.
"I think that is part of the plan," said Hall. "You go from the conditioning stuff, to running the routes, to getting other stuff down. I think we've leaped bounds and bounds farther than were we were at this time last year when me and Cade [Cooper] were battling last year. I'm excited and I think things are translating over from all the experience we've had from the previous year, as well as all the hard work we've put in during the voluntary winter workouts. I couldn't be more happier with our start and where we are going. Now, the question is, can we keep it up?"
Coach Mendenhall and his staff have address this very question to the offense. The offense has come out blazing ahead far further than it has in recent spring practice history, so the question is, can they keep it up?
"[Coach Mendenhall] said we've had a great first two days, but we've got 15 practices," said Hall. "If we can keep this up and continue to build upon every practice what we've done these first two practices, I think we'll be pretty good."
Hall is being humble when he says "pretty good." On Thursday Hall took the Cougar offense down the field faster than you can say, "What happened?" He went six-for-six, leading to a touchdown to cap off the quick, methodical drive.
"I think we know we can be pretty good," Hall said. "We also don't want to get ahead of ourselves though. We're working very hard every day and I'm just really, really happy right now with this offensive line. We don't have very many of them out there right now, but I think they've been working their tails off and I can't say enough good things about them right now. I mean all of them: Dallas [Reynolds], [David] Oswald, Ray [Feinga], Tom Sorensen - who had stepped in for Sete, and R.J. [Willing] did from time to time as well. So they're out there now working hard and improving. Travis [Bright] is obviously hurt, but Matt [Reynolds] is stepping up and playing that spot right now. Coach Omer tells me every day how hard they're working out in the weight room to get ready for the season, so they want to be the best and if they keep up in the way they're going, I think they will be. I'm very excited."