Max Hall has really strung together some impressive practice sessions this week as the Cougar offense seems to be hitting its stride. Hall has been able to complete some impressive passes against solid coverage, and the offense has become more and more familiar with the end zone with every practice this week.
While Brenden Gaskins has edged ahead of Kurt McEuen , it's apparent that McEuen isn't going out without a fight. McEuen is having his moments along with Gaskins, and the quarterback depth appears to be much more secure this fall than it was in the spring when both backup QBs struggled mightily.
Fui Vakapuna has been practicing well this week. He's been in there taking just about every rep with the first-team offense and the offense is thriving because of his play. Vakapuna has made his presence known during run plays, providing some solid and often punishing blocks for Harvey Unga.
J.J. DiLuigi has subsequently seen his reps decrease a bit with the first-team offense, but it's readily apparent to any observer that DiLuigi is the third back at this point. DiLuigi should get plenty of reps this season, but with Vakapuna improving his play this week, those reps look to be limited compared to where they might have been a week ago.
Luke Ashworth and Spencer Hafoka are both having great weeks so far on the practice field. Ashworth has become very involved with the offense, making big plays during most practice sessions. My money is still on Ashworth earning the punt return duties should Bryce Mahuika not recover from injury.
Hafoka meanwhile has seen his reps increase with the first-team offense and has responded nicely. Hafoka has shown to be a legitimate deep threat and on Wednesday made what may have been the play of the entire fall practice session so far.
Hafoka leaped up to haul in a 20-yard pass from Max Hall. Brandon Bradley had great coverage on the play, but Hafoka was able to tower above Bradley to snare the pass in. After watching how adept Bradley has been in jump-ball situations this fall, that made Hafoka's play all that more impressive.
Reporters talk all through practice and one subject that is touched on a lot is how much better Michael Reed looks this year. Reed dominated the evening practice session on Wednesday, catching at least four balls with one going for a touchdown. Reed has been very solid and noticeably quicker in his breaks this fall.
Dennis Pitta and now Andrew George are givens as proven practice performers, which generally translates to the field of play. No surprises with those two. Kaneakua Friel has also begun to emerge and looks to play a big role in the Cougar offense at both tight end and fullback.
But one player who has caught my notice here of late is Braden Brown. Brown has begun to emerge as he develops in the offense and has made some nice plays the last couple of days. Brown will be very hard-pressed to earn playing time considering those ahead of him on the depth chart, but he looks to have a very bright future.
The run blocking of the first-team offensive line has been punishing the last few days. Ray Feinga usually induces piles of defenders stacked up behind him as he lead blocks for Harvey Unga and company, with Travis Bright seeing similar results when they run to his side.
The second-unit offensive line has picked up their game considerably since the spring as I've mentioned before. The second unit usually alternates two groups throughout any practice session.
The unit I've seen most out there with the second-team offense has Jesse Taufi playing left tackle with Nick Alletto at right tackle. Terrance Brown fills in at left guard with Jason Speredon at right guard and either R.J. Willing or Garrett Reden at center.
The other unit sees Jesse Taufi and Garrett Reden playing the two guard positions, Nick Alletto playing left tackle, Brock Stringham playing right tackle and R.J. Willing at center.
Matt Putnam has been seeing a lot of work here of late as coaches want to develop him into more of an every-down defensive end who can defend effectively against the run. Coaches already love Putnam's pass-rushing credentials, but he needs work at run defense if he's to become an every down-type defensive end.
Tevita Hola recently has been seeing time playing defensive end with the second- and third-team unit defensive units. Hola has been lost in the shuffle at nose tackle and it will be interesting to see if and where he contributes this season.
As the offense has begun to hum and Matt Ah You and Matt Bauman have missed some reps due to injuries, Iona Pritchard and Spencer Hadley have shown some true freshman tendencies. Namely, they have gotten lost on too many coverage reads.
True freshmen making mistakes in coverage is fairly normal and we look for both Pritchard and Hadley to improve drastically in this area during the coming week of practice. Matt Bauman meanwhile has shown to make a world of difference in the coverage of running backs and tight ends.
Matt Ah You returned to the practice field Wednesday afternoon and said that he feels fine.
Both G Pittman and Brandon Bradley aren't going down without a fight. The drop-off from the play of Brandon Howard and Scott Johnson to Pittman and Bradley is becoming very difficult to see and subsequently note with most practice sessions.
More than one reporter has noted that they've never seen this amount of knocked down passes by the Cougar cornerbacks during past practice sessions. Lately the cornerbacks have given up some long plays, but overall their play continues to be strong.
At safety the story is with those players who are not on the field. Everyone is anxious to see how Jordan Pendleton responds to his incident with Coach Hill following Tuesday's practice session.
What is apparent to this observer is that Coach Hill was trying to light a fire under Pendleton, as he is looking for him to provide a solid option as a second-string strong safety. Pendleton's potential is enormous, but he's still yet to show that potential on the practice field.
The hope is that Pendleton will return to the practice field recharged after his sickness that kept him out of Wednesday's drills. Coaches often ride their players with the most potential the hardest, and I think we saw that with Coach Hill's actions on Tuesday. We'll see how Pendleton responds.