G-Notes: 8/19

The team prepped for Wednesday's scrimmage, the last of the fall. Coaches hope to solidify the two-deep roster here soon and determine which true freshmen are ready to contribute and play this coming year. Wednesday's scrimmage will play a big part in making those final determinations.

Tuesday's practice saw the defense come out very strong, as Hall threw four straight incompletions in large part due to David Tafuna's tight coverage over the middle of the field. Hall's first pass, intended for Harvey Unga, was knocked away by Shawn Doman, and then Tafuna proceeded to knock down three straight passes in coverage.

I touched on Tafuna's impact in my last notes, but Tuesday he was all over the field and completely dominated the first series of reps during 11-on-11 drills. The defense has really stepped up its play with the return of Matt Bauman and now David Tafuna.

The second series of reps saw Brenden Gaskins go 4-of-7 for 46 yards with passes completed to Matt Marshall, B.J. Peterson, Kaneakua Friel and Tyler Kozlowski. The defensive play of the series was Coleby Clawson rushing around the end to record a sack.

The team then practiced overtime drills, where Hall fared much better, completing all three of his passes for a combined 23 yards. Hall finished off the drive by hitting Fui Vakapuna in the end zone from 1 yard out. The defensive standout play was David Nixon filling the gap off-tackle, recording a run loss.

The highlight of the next series was Matt Ah You immediately meeting Landon Jaussi over the middle on what could have been a brutal hit. Luckily for the unsuspecting Jaussi, Ah You held up on a play when he could have really laid him out.

Quarterback

As was announced Monday, Gaskins won the backup quarterback duties. For Gaskins, it was a difficult battle to win in large part due to the play of Kurt McEuen. Over the fall the two have continued to battle, with Gaskins ultimately getting the nod to back up Hall.

"Kurt is a phenomenal guy," said Gaskins about McEuen. "He's really pushed me and he'll continue to push me because he's such a hard worker and fierce competitor. He's making me better because of his competition, and that's the great thing with this whole second-unit offense. We're pushing each other a lot harder than I think we did in the spring, which will make us all that much better in the long run."

Gaskins mentioned that the skill players and especially the offensive line have improved this fall.

"Garrett Reden is sort of the guy in charge of everyone with the second offensive line and he gets so much credit there," said Gaskins. "He's getting the whole unit to play well together and he's been a huge part of what we've been able to do out there."

With the spot now his, Gaskins is grateful for the time he's put in so he could ultimately earn the position of backup quarterback.

"It's what I wanted and what I was working for," said Gaskins. "I'm grateful to have the chance and will work as hard as I can every week to be as best prepared as I can be to help this team reach its goals."

Running Back

Harvey Unga has predictably seen his workload increase ever so slightly, as the opening game is well within sight. Unga obviously gives the offense a tremendous boost when he's in the game and he looks as good as he ever has during practices.

There was some concern entering fall camp that Unga was perhaps too big and would be less agile while running the football and would cut down on his burst and top speed. I can assure you as one that attends every practice session that those concerns are unfounded, to put it simply.

Wide Receiver

Nothing new to report here other than O'Neill Chambers again being seen snaring a pass with one hand during one-on-one drills in the end zone. Chambers also appears to a very likely candidate to return kickoffs, as he's seen a lot of work as a return man with every day of practice.

Austin Collie has begun his return, going through light drills with the offense Tuesday. Look for Collie to do more and more with every practice session in preparation for Northern Iowa.

Offensive Line

I was able to watch one-on-one drills between the offensive and defensive lines. The player that stood out to me was again Brock Stringham. Stringham is a true freshman who is already getting his work with the second-team unit at right tackle. Stringham shows great feet and technique that is ahead of the curve for most incoming freshmen.

Defensive Line

In watching those same drills, it was Jan Jorgensen that dominated just about every offensive lineman he went against. Jorgensen's burst and aggressiveness are quite a bit more than those of most defensive linemen on the team. We all know what Jorgensen has in his makeup, and it's very reasonable to assume even greater production this coming year.

Bernard Afutiti just may end the 2008 season as the second starting defensive end along with Jorgensen. Afutiti has little trouble during drills with getting to the tackling dummy against some of the better offensive linemen in the program. Denney too impressed, and he looks to be the defensive end to see the most reps starting on the other side of the line opposite Jorgensen.

Linebackers

My eyes will be sharply peeled toward Daniel Sorensen Wednesday to see if he shows well enough for coaches to trust him to take up a spot on the two-deep roster. Sorensen fulfills a unique need at outside linebacker, as he thrives in open space and in coverage.

As mentioned, Matt Ah You returned to practice and immediately made his presence felt. David Tafuna was the standout defensive performer Tuesday, but Ah You would run second from my observations.

Safety

Shiloah Te'o saw reps over Jordan Pendleton working with the second-team defense. Te'o and Pendleton will battle Wednesday to see who will ultimately fill the position of "fourth safety."

Cornerbacks

G Pittman returned to practice and looked like his old self. Pittman's "old self" is simply an extremely confident and aggressive cornerback who doesn't shy away one bit from contact. The position for field cornerback is still open and Pittman will battle hard with Brandon Howard Wednesday to further determine who will get the starting nod.


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