Spring Practice Report: Day Thirteen

When Terrance Hooks went down with an injury that will likely keep him out for all of next season, coaches had to look around for whom would replace him on the two-deep roster. As spring practices draw to a close, that player looks to be Dan Van Sweden, who looks to make an impact while trying to match what Hooks brought to the inside linebacker position.

"You always hate it when a teammate goes down; it's never, ever a good thing," said Dan Van Sweden when asked about his opportunity to move up the depth chart this season. "I'm just trying every day to help out and show coaches that they can count on me to play effectively during games."

Van Sweden has assumed the role of primary backup to both starting linebacker positions, as Matt Ah You has been held out of practices as of late due to some minor injury issues. As it stood prior to the injury to Terrance Hooks, Shawn was Doman starting at the MIKE linebacker position with Hooks backing him up, while Matt Bauman started at the BUCK linebacker position with Matt Ah You backing him up.

Now with Hooks having gone down, inside linebacker coach Paul Tidwell is tinkering with options regarding which of the positions his primary backups will be playing come fall.

"We might move them around a bit, maybe move Matt Ah You to MIKE and have Dan Van Sweden as our primary backup at BUCK since that seems to fit their strengths," said Tidwell. "We have some options we'll have to look at and we'll probably make that determination this offseason."

While there is little difference between the two inside linebacker positions, there are minor nuances which make certain players more apt to play at one or the other.

"We like our MIKEs to be a little more stocky and more able to defend against the run," explained Tidwell. "The BUCK position is where we like to have a guy who moves real well and can cover guys effectively in the open field. There's not a lot of difference, but that is what difference there is."

Van Sweden, who was moved from outside linebacker to inside during the offseason, said he is raring to help wherever he can.

"I think I can play well and I'm ready to step in wherever they need me," said Van Sweden. "With all the injuries we've had at linebacker I've been able to play most of my reps with the 2s and with the 1s this past week, and yeah, I'm learning a lot out there."

Now that he's playing inside, Van Sweden mentioned that he feels more comfortable there and more apt to help out on the field. While he's doing well, he notes that there is still a lot of improvement yet to be made.

"The biggest thing is learning how to take on blockers," said Van Sweden. "That's the biggest difference between playing inside [and outside]. You have less movement and have to take on a lot more blocks. It's physical in there, but I'm working hard and improving every day."

Indeed, Van Sweden is enduring a baptism by fire from the behemoths that reside on the Cougar offensive line, as well as the punishing backs such as Harvey Unga, Fui Vakapuna and Manase Tonga.

"Wow, we have some beasts that we have to tackle out there," noted Van Sweden. "Fui, Harvey, wow, those guys are hard to tackle and I know that if I can tackle them consistently … I can handle most anyone else I go against."

While Van Sweden looks to be the final piece on the two-deep roster at inside linebacker, other players will be coming in the fall to help out.

"We'll be looking at guys like Spencer Hadley and Iona Pritchard immediately to help out," said Tidwell. "We'll know better what they can do when they get here, but they'll each have a great opportunity to step in and compete right away."

Tidwell mentioned that Michael Alisa will most likely end up playing outside linebacker. Jerry Bruner is slated to play fullback at the moment, but may be looked at to play inside linebacker as well.

Practice Notes

-Cougar commit Tui Crichton was at practice on Tuesday, as was Cameron Comer.

-Receiver Luke Ashworth made a great jumping catch over his defender in the back of the end zone during 7-on-7 drills.

-On the very first play of 11-on-11 drills, Max Hall hit Austin Collie up the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown pass.

-Kurt McEuen then took the field with the second unit and went 2-for-3 for 17 yards on passes to Kaneakua Friel and Bryan Kariya. The series ended with Dan Van Sweden recording a sack.

-The defense made another good defensive play against Harvey Unga on the first play of Hall's second set of reps. Linebacker Matt Bauman jumped Unga in the backfield and the play was whistled dead for a loss.

-Hall then completed his next three passes, including two short passes - one of which converted a third-and-short attempt - to Michael Reed. The set ended with Vic So'oto recording a sack on first down, followed by a 6-yard pass to Tyler Kozlowski before a Coleby Clawson sack ended Hall's second set of reps. On Clawson's sack, Hall released the ball right when the whistle was blown and completed a pass to Fui Vakapuna that would have gone for a 30-yard touchdown.

-Kurt McEuen then took the field, getting the second-team offense into the end zone from 25 yards out. He completed passes to Kariya and Matt Marshall for 10 and 7 yards, respectively. J.J. DiLuigi then ran the ball in for a touchdown from 8 yards out.

-Hall then took the field and went 3-of-6 for 45 yards. The big play for the series came with Hall hitting Kozlowski for a 31-yard pass. Both Reed and Manase Tonga caught passes for 7 yards. Cornerback Scott Johnson made a great play in the end zone, knocking down a pass intended for Reed. On third down Hall's pass looked to be completed to Collie before Collie slipped on the play. Mitch Payne missed the 42-yard attempt wide left.

-Brendan Gaskins then got a shot and completed all of his four passes for a combined 72 yards. The big play on the drive came via a 40-yard pass to Landon Jaussi. Jaussi was able to out-muscle Brandon Bradley for the ball and get the offense down to the 10-yard line as practice came to a close.

-Head coach Bronco Mendenhall mentioned that safety Jordan Pendleton has a rib injury that has caused him to miss the last week of practices.

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