Spring Practice Report: Day Eight

Friday's practice witnessed the second full-contact scrimmage of the spring practice session. It was a scrimmage in which the defense - including some new faces in the starting lineup - stepped up. The practice followed the coaching clinic, and was subsequently attended by hundreds of coaches from around the country.

"It was really a positive scrimmage in terms of learning and two-minute situations," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We did a lot with clock management, two-minute offense and overtime, so we had some valuable lessons to be learned in regards to clock management, ball security and just clear assignments."

As mentioned, the defense dominated the initial play during Friday's scrimmage. Max Hall's first pass was intercepted by Garrett Nicholson, who played field corner with the ones in place of the gimpy Brandon Bradley. The defense then forced seven straight incompletions, four of which were thrown by Brenden Gaskins before Hall again took the field and threw three straight.

"We struggled a bit coming out," acknowledged Hall. "The timing wasn't good, but we got better as the scrimmage went on. You have to give props to the defense, they made some great plays today."

"We came out strong and we played really well as a unit," added defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen. "We've played well all spring, but today I just think we were solid with assignments and did a good job getting to the right spots."

The defense had to make do without two of its key defenders with the first team, as both Brandon Bradley and Matt Bauman sat out due to injury. While Bradley's injury is minor, Bauman had surgery this morning and will subsequently miss the rest of the spring practice session.

"Matt Bauman had his knee scoped and will be out for the next two-to-four weeks," said Mendenhall. "This is an injury existing from last year. We didn't even think that we'd need to have it operated on until the end of the season, but it was bothering him enough that he had to have it done."

Bradley missed practice with an ankle injury that he exaggerated, but is expected to practice again come next week. Nicholson took Bradley's spot at field corner with the first-team defense, while Shawn Doman filled in for Bauman. Nicholson recorded the aforementioned interception, closing on an attempted slant pass to O'Neill Chambers, while Shawn Doman blocked a field goal and recorded a sack.

"That really got us pumped up," said Jorgensen about Nicholson's interception. "The biggest improvement the defense is making is being assignment-sound, and having a guy like Garrett come right in and make a play like that really got us going."

"Shawn has played a lot of football, so that really wasn't a surprise," said Mendenhall about Doman's blocked kick and sack. "Garrett Nicholson is going to be a good football player and he's improving every day and we're really excited about him."

Practice Notes

-Bernard Afutiti has undergone the necessary conditioning and played in the scrimmage with the second team opposite Matt Putnam, who is noticeably bigger this year.

"He sort of looks a little pregnant out there, huh?" joked Jorgensen about Putnam. "But it's going to be really good for him. You can't play defensive end at 6'7", 245 [pounds], so he worked hard and he added a lot of good muscle which is really helping him defending the run and in becoming an every-down-type defensive end. He's going to have a great year."

-Although most of the plays were made by the defense Friday, the offense had some as well. Hall completed consecutive long passes to Tyler Kozlowski, O'Neill Chambers and then Dennis Pitta to set up the only touchdown of the day by virtue of a Hall pass to Pitta from two yards out.

On the play Scott Johnson had the coverage and tied up Pitta for the ball before they both went rolling out of bounds. The officials signaled a touchdown, which really upset the defense and led to them protesting loudly.

"Yeah, they like to give the offense touchdowns," objected Jorgensen. "They have to have their moments for their confidence."

-Hawaii recruit Graham Rowley again attended practice and will be in Utah through Tuesday while visiting family that he has here.

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