G-notes

The first day of fall practices is always one of the more interesting ones. After covering recruits for a year or so, it's great to see them finally suited up in Cougar blue. Along with the true freshmen, there were more than several things that caught the G-man's eye during the first day of practices.

Quarterback

Max Hall didn't miss a pass from what I saw. He had two incompletions, but those two passes were dropped by his intended targets. This is the bar Hall has set for himself after coming off of an impressive spring outing, and I think you'll see this type of play from Hall in most practices this fall.

Brenden Gaskins looked like a new quarterback. He felt the heat put on him by Kurt McEuen and responded. The second team offense was just a tad above completely inept against the second team defense this past spring, so it was a very welcome sight to see Gaskins guide the 2s on offense the length of the field for a touchdown on his first set of reps.

Running Back

Harvey Unga looks at least as good as he did a season ago, and there won't be many surprises with Unga this fall. He's a very good back who does everything well.

Behind Unga is the real battle, and Saturday's practice saw J.J. DiLuigi become very involved with what the team was practicing. The team focused on short passes to the flat and circle routes to the running backs, and DiLuigi put together a very productive practice session.

DiLuigi caught three passes during 11-on-11 drills, and on one of those he leaped high above the defense to snare the ball down against some decent coverage. DiLuigi catches the ball very well and this will be his biggest asset in earning reps during games this year.

Not to be outdone, Wayne Latu had the longest reception of any of the players on the day, hauling in a pass that went for 18 yards. Latu also had a nice run through the middle of the line. DiLuigi and Latu will likely battle hard up until game time against Northern Iowa.

At fullback it was great to see Kelly Bills take the field again. Bills has a lot of upside and could help out a lot at the fullback position. Isaac Taylor looked as solid at the position as he did in spring, and accounted for a 7-yard run on the day.

True freshman Jerry Bruner showed very good burst and is trying to prove himself as a running back, although he may be moved to inside linebacker before it's all said and done. Bryan Kariya is the other fullback competing for time.

Wide Receiver

Luke Ashworth saw all of his reps with the 1s, replacing an injured Austin Collie. I feel good with my prediction of Ashworth becoming the first WR off the bench behind Collie and Reed, as he looked quick and adept in his route-running.

Spencer Hafoka is going to put up a big challenge though. For those who don't already know, I predicted Ashworth to be the third WR on the team, while my insubordinate fellow editor Talo Steves predicted Hafoka to be that guy. We'll see who is smartest when the final two-deep roster comes out.

As has already been well-published, O'Neill Chambers served some good notice to the practice field. There was a definite buzz about him, and although his overall athleticism was very apparent, the most impressive thing to me were the accolades the veteran players gave to him after practices.

I was surprised to see Chambers get quality reps during the first day of practices. This isn't a usual thing for true freshman receivers, but coaches apparently have noted Chambers' abilities early on and want to see what he can do.

Tight End

Dennis Pitta coming across the middle is very likely to be the bread and butter play for the Cougar offense this coming year. During spring it appeared as if Hall could hit Pitta across the middle just about any time he wanted, as the matchup problems Pitta creates is too much on most occasions. It was very much the same Saturday, as Pitta appeared to always be open.

It was great to see Braden Brown take the field. Brown is an underrated recruit in my mind who got some serious looks from Pac-10 schools out of high school. Brown can definitely play some good tight end and immediately saw success during his first day with a couple of catches during drills.

Offensive Line

Jan Jorgensen raved about the progress Dallas Reynolds made in the offseason. Reynolds is trimmer and is moving much better according to Jorgensen, who goes against Reynolds every single day of practices. Reynolds was very good last year, but is looking to hit his stride in his final season.

Meanwhile, Matt Reynolds assumed the spot most thought he'd end up at: playing left tackle with the 2s on offense. According to Travis Bright, the younger Reynolds will also continue to back up at guard, as he's really made some strides here of late. Look for Matt Reynolds, R.J. Willing and Garrett Reden to be the primary backups on the offensive line this coming year.

Defensive Line

It was a very welcome sight to see Russell Tialavea back on the practice field. Tialavea saw a full set of reps with the 1s and looked to be completely recovered. He is a player that demands a double team, and should become sack master Jan Jorgensen's best friend as the season wears on because of that.

Tevita Hola appears to be the clear frontrunner for rotating duties with Tialavea at nose tackle. Hola made some nice plays in the backfield during his first day of fall practices. We raved about Hola in the spring, and he's set to get some good playing time as he rotates with Tialavea this season.

Ian Dulan had two sacks Saturday and looks very trim and lively out on the field of play. Dulan is very experienced and showed quick burst off the line during practice, and he was very hard for the offensive front to block.

Linebackers

Matt Ah You is essential to the success of the middle linebackers. Shawn Doman and Matt Bauman will start, but Coach Paul Tidwell has readily noted that the team needs at least four guys that can play to be successful at the position. Matt Ah You is showing he can play. He's bulked up and showed very well Saturday, getting all of his reps with the 1s in place of Matt Bauman, who has a minor foot injury.

Bauman meanwhile looks to have put on about 10 pounds since spring. I haven't spoken to him, but at a glance he looks noticeably bigger, which should aid him with taking on blockers this year.

Vic So'oto was very involved during the practice, whether it was on the field or on the sidelines. You could hear So'oto yelling encouragement to his teammates before, during and after just about every play. So'oto's tremendous upside has been readily noted, and we'll be monitoring his progress throughout August camps.

Coleby Clawson has emerged to be an essential player at outside backer. Clawson proved himself in spring and will very likely be the first outside linebacker off the bench this coming season. He excels in run support and will be valuable in that role.

Meanwhile, Michael Alisa looks to be a good candidate to earn immediate playing time. Alisa was the most underrated recruit BYU signed this past February, and he caught my eye immediately by showing great overall athleticism during his first day of work.

Safety

It was all about Shiloah Te'o during the first day of practices. I was completely blown away with how sure and quick Te'o made his reads at safety and summarily closed the gap, allowing him to make several plays in the backfield and in coverage. It is highly unusual to see a true freshman safety able to make the plays Te'o did in his first ever college practice session.

Te'o worked out with former Cougar Aaron Francisco this summer, and it apparently paid off for him. Safety is one of the more difficult positions for a true freshman to learn, but Te'o appeared to have been playing in that system for the past three years or so. In fact, Kahuku High School does run a similar system to BYU's, which in no doubt aided and will continue to aid Shiloah Te'o.

Daniel Sorensen looked very adept with his footwork and overall movement during drills. Sorensen didn't get many reps during 11-on-11 drills, but he showed in other drills to be a very good overall athlete with a bright future.

Cornerback

Brandon Howard was the standout cornerback during practices. Howard had at least two pass breakups and was playing the part of shutdown corner for the first day. It should be noted that due to the bevy of short passes thrown, the cornerbacks weren't really tested that much. But when tested, Howard passed the test with flying colors.

Garrett Nicholson has a very bright future at cornerback. With cornerbacks I watch their feet during drills, and Nicholson appeared to have the sort of quick feet Howard and G Pittman had during their first day of drills.


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