The Hall Report

With the absence of wide receivers Michael Reed and Austin Collie as well as four offensive linemen, Cougar quarterback Max Hall gives an overview of how he feels their replacements are performing. Hall also talks about some things learned from last season that he believes will help the team this year.

After a rather stressful season in which expectations were high, quarterback Max Hall is having fun again. Just like the good old days, Hall rushes into the end zone to celebrate touchdowns with his teammates. The emotional rejuvenation and excitement can be seen not only by Hall, but by others involved with the offense.

"I think last year we got a little heavy in going to one guy," admitted Hall. "We threw to Austin [Collie] a bunch. I think this year we're going to be a little more balanced and distribute the ball around more. I think we're going to be more of a threat on the field because we're using more of our weapons.

"We had a great season last year even though we lost a couple of tough games. I think what's helping us more this year is we understand that it takes everybody. We can't just put it on my shoulders, or [Dennis Pitta's] shoulders, [Harvey Unga's] shoulders or Matt Bauman's or Andrew Rich's shoulders. It has to be a team effort and that is what is making it so special and exciting to play on this football team. I think that culture is coming back into play right now."

Although it's hard to argue that a 10-2 season was a failure, there were expectations and goals that weren't reached. As individuals and as a team, the Cougars learned some valuable lessons over the course of last year.

"We learned that we can't expect things," Hall said. "We know we have to work hard for things. We never really faced any adversity until it hit us last year with TCU. When it hit us we really didn't know what to do, so that's one thing we're focusing on this year from some valuable lessons we learned from last season."

The senior leaders on the team are taking it upon themselves to help lead the younger players and set an example.

"For us it's not only leading the offense but leading the whole team," said Hall. "I think that is what we are trying to do. We want everyone to know that we are going to go out there and battle together because even though we come out here and compete during practice and even get into a fight from time to time, as long as we are willing to go to war for one another during game day, that is what it is all about. It's about helping the young guys get ready for game day, it's about me controlling my temper and harnessing it and making sure I'm doing the right thing to be a leader on the football field."

Having lost both outside receivers in Michael Reed and Austin Collie, it's tough to replace experience with talent at such a key position. However, Hall said he feels those next in line will step up and make a name for themselves.

"You know, both Michael and Austin knew what to do in the offense," said Hall. "They were both big-time playmakers and it was nice to have them out there for me on the edges. It's kind of the same thing when we thought, ‘What are we going to do when Jonny Harline leaves or John Beck leaves?' What happens is guys step up and take their place, and I'm excited. I think the guys we have now that are stepping up are going to be the next superstars."

So which players are helping to replace Reed and Collie?

"Well, we have O'Neill, Luke Ashworth and McKay Jacobson," said Hall. "Then we have guys stepping up like Tyler Kozlowski and B.J. Peterson. Plus, I've got my two studs at tight end."

Ashworth, the former Timpview High School star, has become a solid weapon for Hall during spring camp. He has been making catches both easy and difficult, in the open and in traffic. Wide receiver Tyler Kozlowski has shown to be a reliable receiver and B.J. Peterson brings size to the position.

Meanwhile, Hall feels the running back position is solid. One player that needs no introduction is junior running back Harvey Unga, who has received limited reps this spring. J.J. DiLuigi has instead received the bulk of the carries and has performed very well.

"The running backs are solid with J.J. and Harvey," Hall said. "Hopefully we'll have Manase [Tonga] back by fall, but until then we have Bryan Kariya stepping in. Bryan has been doing a great job leading the way for our backs, so we've got guys that can make plays and can get the job done. It's exciting seeing all these new guys stepping up fulfilling their roles and making plays. I think J.J. has done a great job for us so far. He's a quick and shifty runner and is getting a lot of experience this spring."

Coaches are looking for another every-down back to compliment Unga, and so far they have looked to DiLuigi as that running back. With the return of Malosi Te'o from a LDS mission to New York, Hall feels the future looks to be in good shape.

"Malosi shows a lot of potential," said Hall. "He's still a little rough and has to learn a lot, but he shows a lot of potential and I think he's going to be a very good football player."

But what is the deal with the 6-foot-6-inch, 260-pound tight end playing fullback in the Cougar offense? Seeing such a big body lining up in the backfield is a sight to see not only for those standing on the sidelines, but for those who have to step up and take him on as he paves the way for the running backs.

"Braden Brown has already stepped up to that fullback position as well as the backup tight end position," Hall said. "He is a big, physical dude and you know, those are the guys you need to win championships. Those are the type of guys you need to do the small things well to get big job done."

Replacing four offensive linemen could be a cause for alarm for any quarterback, yet Hall feels the offensive line is doing an exceptional job. From a spectator's view, it's hard to argue his evaluation of the new offensive linemen up front. The exciting thing about the offensive linemen is that they are performing at a high level of execution this early in spring and will only get better by the time fall camp is done.

"I feel like there hasn't been a change," Hall said. "I have just as much confidence in those guys [as] I did in our guys last year. It just feels the same in that they are performing much the same way our guys did last year as an o-line. That's what is nice for me because I don't have to worry a single bit and can focus my attention downfield. I'm very pleased with our guys up front on the offensive line and they're doing a phenomenal job. Coach Weber is doing a phenomenal job getting our guys ready. I feel great back there and I'm just as comfortable back there this year as I was last year."

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