Blue and White Game Showcases Newcomers

With the starters receiving limited reps for fear of injury during BYU's annual Blue and White Game, future Cougar stars were given the green light to showcase their talents in front of thousands of BYU fans gathered at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The warm weather came out on the right day as the Cougars of BYU took the field. The starters took the field first. The contact was limited and the refs blew quick whistles to help further prevent any injuries to starters.

After a few series were giving to the first-string players, the team was gathered into the middle of the field and addressed by head coach Bronco Mendenhall. Following the midfield discussion, 20 minutes were added to the scoreboard and the blue and white teams took their respective sides of the field. The players were then able to compete with full contact.

"Today was really a chance for us to showcase the guys that are up and coming and allow them to kind of show their stuff," said tight end Dennis Pitta. "We saw during the scrimmage a lot of guys shine, guys like J.J. [DiLuigi] and Spencer [Hafoka]. They finally got a chance to play and really stepped it up big."

Freshman All-American running back Harvey Unga echoed Pitta's comments.

"Honestly, I thought they did great," said Unga. "The offense was moving the ball down the field. It was fun watching those guys come out onto the field and get some reps, you know. Throughout spring, me, Manase [Tonga] and Fui [Vakapuna] have been getting more of the reps as far as the team sessions were during practice. It was a good time for J.J. and the other guys to come out here and get some work in."

There were many standout plays made by various players from the first string on down. Of the newcomers on the offensive side of the ball that were able to get a chance to perform, DiLuigi, Hafoka, Luke Ashworth and Kaneakua Friel all made an impression.

"J.J. Diluigi ran well today," said Pitta. "He does a good job in setting up his blocks, seeing the hole and running hard, so he had a good day. We're really excited about him and the potential he's got. Spencer also had a great day and made some great catches out there. Those are two guys that you have to look to in the near future."

DiLuigi showed good quickness and patience as he used his blockers well in a timely manner to gain good yardage downfield. Now you can listen to the redshirt freshman running back talk about Saturday's performance, his fellow teammates, and the adjustment to the college level.

The most spectacular catch of the Blue and White Game was made when Hofoka laid out along the sideline for a diving catch on a pass from quarterback Brenden Gaskins.

Now you can listen to BYU freshman wide receiver Spencer Hafoka talk about his Blue and White Game performance, his summer goals, and his thoughts on fellow teammates Friel, Ashworth and DiLuigi.

Wide receiver Luke Ashworth also showed why BYU fans should be excited about the future with him in the fold after having recently returned home from an LDS mission. Ashworth made great catches in traffic and would have scored a touchdown had the referees not blown the ball dead within the 5-yard line.

"Luke brings speed to the wide receiver position," said Pitta. "He's a speed guy and can really stretch the field vertically. It's always important to be able to stretch the field vertically, and that's what he brings to the team."

Moving up to the third tight end spot, freshman Kaneakua Friel showed his athleticism when he was able to jump and make a one-handed catch over the middle of the field. Like DiLuigi, Hafoka and Ashworth, Friel is another player BYU fans can get excited about for the near future.

"Kaneakua is another one that has progressed well in the spring," Pitta said. "I think his blocking ability is where it should right now for him. His route running is good and he's becoming more comfortable within the system. He's learning the offense and the plays and is getting to the point where he can just go out there and not think about what to do but just play, which is important."

Now that spring camp is officially over, one emphasis that the Cougars have on the summer is developing greater individual speed. Austin Collie, Harvey Unga, Spencer Hafoka, J.J. DiLuigi and Dennis Pitta all expressed a greater interest in developing their speed and staying crisp over the summer.

"Well, we'll have a couple of weeks off, but then it's getting back to getting bigger, stronger and faster," said Pitta. "Following spring it's a focus on keeping our skills crisp."

"Personally, I feel that speed is something that I need to work on over the summer," said Unga with a smile. "I'll be taking notes from Austin over the summer and hopefully I'll get faster."

Now you can listen to Unga talk about what he feels are some of the things the Cougars will be working on over the summer in preparation for fall camp.

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