Spring Practice Report: Day Ten

Throughout the spring the focus has been on putting both the offensive and defensive units in certain game-time situations and then having them execute with those situations in mind. On Tuesday the team participated in a scenario in which the offense was ahead late in the game and had to burn out the clock, while the defense had to get the ball back.

The scoreboard at the practice field read the home team (offense) 13 and the road team (defense) 9 with four minutes left in the game. The goal for the offense was obviously to run out the clock while forcing the defense to burn its two remaining timeouts, while it was the duty of the defense to force the offense to punt. So how did it turn out?

"I'd say that three of the four situations the defense managed it well, while in one of the four it was the offense," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "

As one could imagine there was a lot of running the football Tuesday and very little passing, which is more than welcome for most defensive players.

"Oh yeah, we love playing downhill and aggressive," said safety Andrew Rich. "Today allowed us to play more aggressive and downhill with the situation we were given, but with our offense you always have to watch out for the pass and play-action, so we did that and overall I think both the offense and defense had their moments."

Indeed, most of the scrimmage saw the defense stack the box while the offense struggled to gain even one yard given the situational drill. Run-stuffing plays were made by a whole host of players including Jan Jorgensen, Russell Tialavea, Andrew Rich, Scott Johnson, Terrance Hooks and Bernard Afutiti.

"We did a good job swarming to the ball for the most part and I think we got better as the drill went on," observed Rich. "Our second-team guys really did well I thought and I think we did well as a first-team unit."

Dennis Pitta made perhaps the best catch of spring practice during the drill, diving full-out for a finger-tip grab during a critical third-down play. Defensively it was probably Bernard Afutiti who stood out the most, stuffing at least three run attempts in the backfield.

Coach Mendenhall mentioned following practice that with Afutiti it's never been a question of his ability, but a question of academics and life decisions. Should Afutiti get his academics in order, then the sky is the limit.

Ailing Alletto

An unwelcome sight on the practice field occurred early on as offensive lineman Nick Alletto had his knee rolled up on, resulting in what is believed to be an MCL tear. Alletto was helped off the field and is expected to miss the rest of spring practices as a result, although nothing has been determined at this time.

If Alletto indeed has an MCL tear, it will keep him out anywhere from a week to a month and would mirror Dennis Pitta's own MCL tear that he was able to play with a week after sustaining the injury. As it's the spring, the staff obviously won't rush Alletto back onto the practice field regardless.

Emphasis on Situations

Tuesday's practice was hardly unique given the specificity of the late-game situation. Indeed, it has been an emphasis this entire spring to put the team in certain situations so it will be better at executing during those situations once the season arrives.

"When you look at winning championships and staying on top and having the seasons you want to have year and year out, you have a lot of those situations that will determine the outcome of the game," explained Mendenhall. "So when you consider overtime and you consider two minutes from playing from behind or four minutes from playing from ahead, you want to be more comfortable in those situations."

Mendenhall added that the increased competition in the Mountain West Conference has perhaps changed the focus of the staff to practicing more specific game-time situations during practice. Athletes play like they practice more times than not, and when critical situations come up it's the hope that they'll be well-schooled in what exactly to do.

"It's good being put in these situations," said Rich. "It also makes us more competitive, I think, in that both sides of the ball have a specific goal during any given practice."

Practice Notes

-Peter Tuitupou was in attendance. Tuitupou signed with Utah out of high school before playing a year for Snow College. After attending Washington State for a semester Tuitupou is leaving for a mission in the next couple of months and is interested in attending BYU following his mission.

-Jordan Pendleton was held out of contact drills due to his hand getting wedged between two helmets. His injury isn't believed to be serious, although Masi Tuitama had a similar occurrence and may have broken his hand. Jamison Frazier and Grant Nelson got increased reps in their stead. Jordan Atkinson also saw first-team reps for the first time this spring at inside linebacker.

-McKay Jacobson practiced for the first time, although he did not participate in contact drills.

-Jan Jorgensen is apparently still looking for his jersey, as he donned the number 37 during Tuesday's practice session.


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