Practice Report: Wagner Making Waves

Jadon Wagner has been making his move to fill the vacant outside linebacker spot on the two-deep roster. Throughout practices Wagner has provided some good and physical play from the outside, which has caught the notice of Coach Lamb and the rest of the Cougar coaching staff.

With David Nixon, Vic So'oto and Coleby Clawson all playing as mainstays on the two-deep roster, the fourth position has yet to be filled. While linebacker coach Barry Lamb has tried different players in there to back up So'oto, it's Jadon Wagner who is there now, and he aims to stay there.

"I'm playing like I know how to play," said Wagner. "It's just about being healthy. I've never been healthy, so now that I am I'm able to practice and show them what I got. It's just about being healthy for me."

Indeed, Wagner is playing every day and is looking as healthy as ever, earning him time with the second-team defense following last Saturday's scrimmage. Wagner is completing his assignments and is covering receivers and tight ends well, but most of all, Wagner is playing physical.

"When you look at us as a group, we don't have a lot of physical guys," said Barry Lamb about the outside linebackers in the program. "So that's a premium when an opposing team has a tight end in and when defending against the run. Jadon has so far proved to be a good option for us with that and hopefully he continues to progress."

Wagner started out his audition this fall with the third-team defense, but has slowly and surely worked his way up the depth chart, and took full advantage of this past Saturday's scrimmage to show coaches that he has what it takes.

"I just need to play and continue to play like I know I can," said Wagner. "I'm bigger than most of the other guys at my position and I'm confident in using my size to get more physical with the tight end and other players. I'm doing well, I'm happy where I'm at right now, but I want to just continue to show them that I can really help out there."

Lamb has observed Wagner making an impact more and more with every practice.

"He's getting in the way more," said Lamb regarding Wagner's play. "He's getting in the way of where the offense wants to go and especially on running plays, he's not going where the offense wants him to go, as he's able to withstand blocks better than most of the guys I have. So that's where he's making his biggest impact, is in that area."

What Lamb has noticed is that Wagner has improved with every day they've given him reps with the second-team defense. As Wagner continues to progress, his role with the defense this year will likely increase.

"He did great today and he did great yesterday," noted Lamb regarding Wagner's play. "But what I like is even though he did well yesterday, I think he did even a little better today. He's just getting better and better as he gets more time. He's responding well to what we're asking him to do, which is what you want as a coach."

Afutiti Acclimating

A welcome sight on the practice field is Bernard Afutiti finally being able to practice now that he has finally sorted out his transfer papers to make himself eligible. For Afutiti, it was a bit of a frustrating process as he worked as hard as possible just to be able to get on the practice field.

"It was really frustrating, but I knew it was something that had to be done," said Afutiti. "Now that I'm here I just couldn't be more happy. It's finally done with and I'm where I've always wanted to be for as long as I can remember."

Afutiti is obviously a bit behind, having just joined the team late last week, but he's getting some good reps with the second-team defense and is trying to progress and earn a spot in the rotation.

"I know I can play and I'm somewhat familiar with how the defense is played, having played in a 3-4 system in junior college," explained Afutiti. "I'm a bit lost learning exactly where to go and all that, but I'm not frustrated by it; it will come. I just need to keep working."

What Afutiti has shown is a quick first step out of his stance, and as he learns exactly where to go with every play his physical abilities should begin to make themselves relevant on the practice field.

"I'm confident that I can play and help this team this year," said Afutiti. "The guys here though are really, really good. Jan Jorgensen, man, he's as good as it gets. So are Ian Dulan and Brett Denney. It's a strong, strong defensive line and I just want to help make them stronger."

Practice Notes

-Recruits Adam and Andrew Pulsipher from Temecula, California were in attendance Wednesday, as was Richard Wilson from Spanish Fork.

-Jordan Pendleton sat out Wednesday's practice due to illness, according to head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

-Andrew Rich played strong safety with the first-team unit in place of Pendleton and David Tafuna. who is still out as he recovers from a mild concussion.

-The second-team offensive line is shaking out, as Jesse Taufi and Nick Alletto are getting just about every rep at tackle, Jason Speredon and Terrance Brown are at guard, and either R.J. Willing or Garrett Reden are at center.

-Mendenhall mentioned that Willing is looked at as the sixth offensive lineman option at this point, with Reden being the seventh option at most offensive line positions entering the season.

-The team focused again on blue zone execution, and the offense got into the end zone on three occasions.

-Max Hall got the offense into the end zone in four plays staring from the 20-yard line. Hall completed both his passes, while Harvey Unga did the rest of the work. Unga scored on a run from five yards when Ray Feinga plowed the way for him, taking out two would-be tacklers and allowing Unga to walk into the end zone.

-The other two touchdowns came with Kurt McEuen hitting Kaneakua Friel from 15 yards out and Hall hitting Luke Ashworth in the corner of the end zone from 20 yards out.

-The defensive play of the day was made by G Pittman, who knocked away a pass in coverage that safety Steven Thomas was able to pick off for the turnover.

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