"That's good for us, you know," said Hall of the national ranking. "The expectations are high, but we want it that way. If we want to end the year playing in a BCS game, we've got to start the season somewhere. So, 17's a good place to start, and hopefully we'll be one of the top teams at the end of the season."
As for the first fall practice session, Hall said it was a great first day and that a lot of good things were accomplished. He said he felt the team's precision and execution were good, and that it felt like the team picked up right where it left off at the end of spring camp. In addition, he said he personally feels more comfortable and relaxed, but added that he wants to do everything perfectly, and that he wasn't able to do that Saturday. Hall also acknowledged that some kinks and fundamental things need to be worked out, but added that such things are to be expected at the beginning of camp.
"We just want to keep getting better," said Hall. "We just want to keep working on our execution, work on team unity … we've got a bunch of young guys on defense, so we need to keep getting work. I thought the defense did really well today."
Hall said it was comforting to have so many returning players around him on offense. Indeed, the returning playmakers and proven veterans at various positions should indeed inspire confidence in the Cougars. However, the offense also faces a few unfortunate setbacks.
First of all, fullback Manase Tonga will miss the 2008 season due to academic ineligibility, thus placing a bigger burden on Fui Vakapuna as he works to regain his 2006 form.
"You can't replace a Manase Tonga; he's a great player," said Hall. "However, Fui's his own player, and Fui's a very good player, and so if I was to replace Manase with anybody, it'd be Fui. He's worked hard all offseason, and now he just needs to get in tune and get in sync with us and what we're doing now, but I think he'll do a good job."
In addition, star receiver Austin Collie is currently dealing with a stress fracture in his leg. However, Hall said he wasn't worried about Collie and that he felt he'll be fine.
In addition to the aforementioned Cougar playmakers and veterans, the offense will see some contributions from lesser experienced players and possibly even entirely new faces. Hall talked about some of the newest or lesser known Cougars that have impressed him thus far.
"Offensively, O'Neill Chambers is out there," said Hall. "I think he's doing a good job. Bryan Kariya's out there at fullback. Tom Sorensen's kind of stepping in [at center]. So, those are kind of the positions we're looking to fill. I thought the backup QBs did a good job today as well, you know. Brenden [Gaskins] got a score, so that was good to see, and so there's a lot of exciting things that happened today."