Coach Mendenhall spoke Monday regarding how Kurt McEuen has chipped away at Brenden Gaskins ever since Gaskins came out on fire at the start of fall practices. While Gaskins still looks good, McEuen has slowly but surely made ground on him over the past three weeks, making Coach Doman's final decision as to who will back up Max Hall all the more difficult.
J.J. DiLuigi has become a very consistent practice performer over the past few weeks, which more than anything should be earning him some good work this fall. DiLuigi is making yards almost every time he catches the football or runs it. We've touched on his increased giddy-up and lateral movement already, and DiLuigi is making it work for him.
I've also noticed a more intense and focused Fui Vakapuna the last couple of practice sessions. You could make a strong argument for Vakapuna being the most intense and focused player on the team during Monday's session.
Vakapuna is looking healthy and more and more like what fans saw from him back in 2006. He realizes that it's crunch time for him, and so far he's responding well.
Every time I looked up to observe practice Monday it seemed as if O'Neill Chambers was making a play, whether it be returning kicks, catching passes or blocking a punt. Chambers is getting more and more work with every practice session, and most importantly, he's responding.
Chambers will have a role in the offense this year at the very least, and could be the primary receiver in the rotation behind Austin Collie and Michael Reed at the most. Chambers is simply making plays in every practice session.
We know about Dennis Pitta, Andrew George and even Kaneakua Friel, but the tight end who is really starting to emerge is Braden Brown. Brown may be hard-pressed for playing time this year simply due to those ahead of him on the depth chart, but he's showing a lot of promise during practice sessions here of late.
Brown has very good size at about 6 feet 6 inches and moves extremely well for his size. When those ahead of him funnel out of the program, Brown should very well see himself as the top tight end option starting in 2010 should he continue his progress.
Not much to report here, and that is a good thing in this instance. The offensive line looks as solid and as deep as ever with some very good and promising options with the second-teamers.
The big news here is that Coach Mendenhall has not been pleased with how Ian Dulan has gone about his rehab. Dulan has been out almost four days now and hasn't been diligent in his rehab duties so far.
In his stead, no player is perhaps coming on as strong as Bernard Afutiti. Mendenhall stated definitively that Afutiti will play this year, and it's easy to see why. Afutiti is extremely quick off the snap and has proven very difficult to block. His lateral movement is linebacker-like, which gives coaches a lot of options as how to play him.
The big news Monday was that Daniel Sorensen has made the switch to outside linebacker. It's a move that will lead me to pat myself on the back, as I predicted that he'd be moved there sometime this season.
Mendenhall stated that he likes Sorensen's physical nature and his aggressive play. During the scrimmages they determined to switch him to outside linebacker, and Sorensen liked the idea.
In other news I was able to overhear a conversation between Iona Pritchard and David Nixon. Pritchard was asking Nixon primarily about road trips and how they're handled. The true freshman assumed they'd be taking buses, after which Nixon responded that he wasn't in high school anymore.
Pritchard was, in a word, "impressed" that they'd actually be taking a chartered plane on road trips and staying in some pretty nice accommodations. It's just one of those perks that true freshmen aren't accustomed to.
Mendenhall spoke of how he's been very impressed with Jordan Pendleton's diligence since he returned to practice. Pendleton is battling for what Mendenhall terms as the fourth safety on the team with Shiloah Te'o. Andrew Rich will be the first player off the bench at either safety position as it stands right now.
David Tafuna has returned to practice and it's easy to see how much of a difference he makes in coverage when he's out there. Tafuna is ready to finish strong and I feel he's very underrated by a lot of vocal fans on this site.
Talk about unfortunate timing to go down with a concussion for G Pittman. No sooner does Coach Mendenhall mention that he's gaining ground on Brandon Howard for the starting field cornerback nod than he goes down with a head injury. Pittman's injury isn't believed to be serious and he should be returning to the lineup here soon.
Brandon Bradley continues to make plays during most practice sessions. Monday saw Bradley make up coverage to pick off a Max Hall pass on a play most Cougar cornerbacks in past years probably wouldn't have sniffed at.
You can look for Reed White to return punts this year, as Mendenhall talked about his consistency and his ability to get the 10 yards after the punt that they ask for.
On kick returns it's very likely that O'Neill Chambers will be back there, as he's shown very adept at bursting through the line during most practice sessions. Most importantly, Chambers isn't dropping the football, which should earn him the spot.