One thing Vakapuna is doing very well is catching the football out of the backfield. While Vakapuna was never necessarily plain bad at catching the football, it certainly wasn't one of his strengths in the past. This spring he's shown a greater ability at getting open while not breaking stride when receiving the ball.
#2 Bryce Mahuika: Mahuika has been sitting out spring practices while nursing an offseason injury.
#3 Michael Reed: Reed has been very productive this spring, not missing any days or seemingly any reps with the first-team offense. Most practice sessions see Reed catching anywhere from three to five passes during 11-on-11 drills.
Reed has lost some weight and it looks as if it's paid off for the senior wide receiver. While running patterns he looks quicker and sharper in his cuts than he was a year ago. Look for Reed to go out strong this coming season.
#4 Brandon Howard: Howard has been receiving a lot of good experience this spring covering both Austin Collie and Michael Reed every day. Howard has seen every one of his reps with the first-teamers and has shown well in coverage.
#4 Kurt McCuen: McCuen has really improved this spring and is currently putting on a big push to be named the second-string quarterback. He showed promise a year ago and gained some valuable experience running the scout team.
McCuen is getting primary backup reps every other practice session as he rotates with Brenden Gaskins. McCuen has settled in and has done some good things during reps, which has caused coaches to open up the battle for the backup role behind Max Hall.
#5 Brandon Bradley: Bradley looks as good as anyone during one-on-one drills. His athleticism is very apparent during those drills, as he usually dominates whoever he goes up against.
During most 11-on-11 drills, however, Bradley has looked a bit hesitant, as he's still learning the overall coverage scheme set forth by Jaime Hill. Once Bradley learns where he needs to be in every coverage situation, he should be better able to showcase his superior athleticism.
#6 Brenden Gaskins: Gaskins had a tough first week of practices, which lead the way for McCuen to make up some ground and make the fight for the backup role a real battle. Since that time Gaskins has settled in and put together some nice practice sessions. McCuen is definitely pushing Gaskins, and fortunately for coaches, Gaskins seems to be responding well to the added competition.
#7 Chris Warner: Warner just can't seem to stay healthy enough to earn himself a spot in the Cougar secondary. Warner hasn't been practicing much this past week, but before then was showing well in coverages. Should he be able to get consistently healthy, Warner has the goods to help out on defense and on special teams.
#9 Austin Collie: Collie looks every bit as good as he did last season and then some. Having been able to recover from his high ankle sprain which plagued him last season, Collie looks to have more bounce, lateral movement and overall speed than he did last season.
Collie seemingly dominates every practice session. Although he's obviously set to enter the season as Hall's top receiving option on the outside, Collie practices every day as hard as if he were a true freshman trying to earn a spot.
#10 Stephen Covey: Covey has gone about learning how to play quarterback again following his mission. Covey has yet to take any reps during 11-on-11s, as he's still learning the system thanks to being only three months removed from his mission.
#10 J.J. DiLuigi: DiLuigi has had a good spring. He's seeing a lot of work with the second-team during 11-on-11 drills and has responded well. He's shown good natural running skills and is proving to be very good at getting open while catching the ball consistently.
#11 Manase Tonga: Tonga has not missed a day of practice and looks as most fans would expect him to. Tonga is a valuable commodity for coaches, as he knows every role involved in the Cougar backfield better than anyone else on the team. Coaches have also been doing some new things with Tonga in certain situations as they look to perhaps expand his role in the offense.
#12 Brannon Brooks: Brooks has gained a lot of muscle and is playing steady with the third-team defense. Brooks is the first one to sub in with the 2s when anyone ahead of him misses practice.
#12 Jason Munns: Munns' reps have been very limited as he preps to serve his mission this summer. He still has a big brace around his knee and gets the least amount of reps of any of the current quarterbacks.
#13 Nate Hutchinson: Hutchinson has been limited in his reps, playing mostly with the third-teamers so far this spring.
#15 Max Hall: Hall has been tearing it up this spring. His level of performance should be expected to be high considering who he has running with him on offense and the fact that he has a full year's experience under his belt. So far Hall is playing at the level most would expect him to be playing at this spring.
The most apparent improvement with Hall is his release time. Hall is better able to recognize where the ball needs to go this spring and is getting it there a lot sooner than he did last season. He has also shown well at distributing the ball, as he has been using most of his outlets - from receiver to tight end to running back - during most practices.
#16 Kellen Fowler: Fowler has become the leader of the Cougar defensive backfield. He's obviously seen every one of his reps with the first-team defense and has shown to be steady and reliable, much as he did last season when he was called on to fill in for Quinn Gooch.
#16 BJ Peterson: Peterson is a receiver with good height (6 feet 3 inches) and has been playing well primarily with the third-team offense.
#17 Mitch Palsson: At a glance, the same things said of Peterson could be said for Palsson. Both are tall receivers playing primarily with the 3s on offense.
#17 G Pittman: Pittman has been playing well with the second-team defense this spring. He has shown to be a very aggressive player who isn't afraid to lay a hit while mixing it up with the first-team and second-team offensive units. Pittman's upside is tremendous and he continues to push Howard for the starting field cornerback spot.
#18 Skyler Ridley: Ridley was teammates with Tyler Beck in high school and has been running consistently with the third-team offense.
#20 Mitchell Reid: Reid is a defensive back who is currently with the fourth-team defense working to move his way up the depth chart.
#20 Reed White: White has seen steady reps with the 2s on offense and sometimes with the 1s rotating in when Collie and Reed get breathers. White runs solid routes and has shown well in several practices. He is also one of the three or four players that have taken reps returning punts.
#21 Ryan Folsom: Folsom is seeing reps mostly with the third-team offense at running back.
#21 Scott Johnson: Johnson has been very impressive this spring. While many, including myself, thought it was only a matter of time before Bradley beat him out for the starting boundary cornerback spot, Johnson is doing everything necessary to hold him off.
Johnson simply knows how to play in Hill's system better than any other cornerback on the team. He's been able to be much more aggressive than his counterparts and subsequently make more plays this spring due to his ability to be exactly where he needs to be every time while in coverage.
#22 Tyler Kozlowski: Kozlowski has been seeing a lot of work with the first-team offense, as he's more than often the first option off the bench behind starters Collie and Reed.
#22 Steven Thomas: Thomas is seeing most of his reps with the 3s at the free safety position, but has recently seen some work with the 2s, as he's currently behind Fowler and Andrew Rich at the position.
#23 Kelly Bills: Bills showed well early on in the spring, but has had to sit out here recently due to injury. Bills is competing at the fullback position.
#23 David Tafuna: Tafuna is back in action and now seeing some reps at strong safety during contact drills. Tafuna is obviously very experienced and is the player to beat out for the starting strong safety spot.
#24 Jameson Frazier: Frazier is playing mostly with the third-team defense at the strong safety position.
#24 Brian Smith: Smith is again backing up at both the punter and place-kicker positions.
#25 Stephen McFarland: McFarland is competing at the fullback position, where he's currently getting reps behind Isaac Taylor.
#25 Gary Nagy: Nagy is seeing all of his reps with the third-team defense at the boundary CB position so far this spring.