Fall Practice Report: Day Three

The first-team offense was humming as the team focused on two-minute execution to finish up the practice session. The team dressed in half pads Tuesday or in "shells" as they're commonly referred to. The session was marked with a lot of intense interface between coaches and players, as the team starts to get more intense with their preparation for the coming season.

"That was the most impressive offensive segment we've had in camp," remarked head coach Bronco Mendenhall following Tuesday's practice session. During the session Max Hall led the first-team offense to three straight scores and went 16-of-23 for 228 yards and two touchdowns.

"We started off with the two-minute drill and both times we ran it we went down and scored," said Hall. "I get to call a lot of the plays, so I go with whatever I see and whatever I feel, and I think we handled it pretty well and it felt great."

During the first set Hall completed all five of his passes, which included completions to Matt Marshall, McKay Jacobson, Andrew George and Dennis Pitta before Hall threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Braden Brown

"It just clicked today," explained Hall. "It helps the offense when we have pads on because the blocking becomes a little more realistic, if that makes sense. So I was very proud with how the offense did and the receivers made plays."

During the second set of first-team reps Hall went 5-of-8 for 71 yards and a touchdown. Hall's touchdown came by way of Jacobson hauling in a pass from 22 yards out. Pitta and J.J. Di Luigi both caught passes, while Chambers hauled in two of his own during the set.

During the third and final team set, Hall again completed all five of his passes for a combined 51 yards, which included three completions to Harvey Unga and one each to Chambers and Di Luigi. The drive culminated with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Unga and included an 11-yard run by Di Luigi.

"We worked very hard in the summer, but it's different now and it's different doing it in pads and when it's hot," explained Hall about the success the offense saw. "Guys are tired, but they're working through it with a ton of other stuff going on, so that's really positive. I feel we've gotten better with every day so far this fall and hopefully that continues. It's my job to help to make sure that it does."

Di Luigi Looking Good

Di Luigi was very involved with the offensive success Tuesday, making some very nice runs and also getting some catches to help the Cougar offense move.

"I'm just trying to do my best in every situation they put me in," remarked Di Luigi. "It doesn't matter how many reps I get during a game or even during practice, I have to make the most of them to help the team. That's what they need from me."

Di Luigi looks to have more pop in his step coming out this fall as he attempts to solidify his spot as the first running back behind Unga.

"He looks great and that comes from the hard work he did over the summer," observed Hall. "He's showing a lot of the same movement and explosion that he did out of high school and it's exciting to see. I think J.J. is going to help us out a lot this year."

"I really like how he's running the ball right now," added Mendenhall. "Right now he's our number-two guy with a slight edge over Malosi [Te'o]."

A lot of Di Luigi's advantage over Te'o currently lies with his ability to catch the football. "You have to catch the football in this offense," Di Luigi said. "It's as important as running it effectively, maybe even more so. I've really worked on my timing and that's the key, knowing where to be and when. I feel that I'm doing very good at that."

The hope for the offense is to give Unga rest during games, as he's had to shoulder too much of the running back responsibilities in each of his first two seasons. So far so good, as Di Luigi has looked equal to the task.

"We need him … and if that continues he's going to do great for us," said Hall about Di Luigi. "If he continues to work on his ball security and work like he did today, Harvey will get the rest he needs I think."

Practice Notes

-Terrance Hooks did not dress Tuesday, as coaches are awaiting the results of his MRI. Brandon Bradley didn't finish practice due to a knee injury that Mendenhall believes is a case of tendonitis.

-Steven Thomas filled in for Bradley with the first-team defense due to his knowledge of the overall coverage system. Lee Aguirre assumed his role as second-string boundary cornerback with Brian Logan seeing reps at field cornerback.

-McKay Jacobson, O'Neill Chambers, J.D. Falsev, Garett Nicholson and Rhen Brown all took turns returning punts. No punts were dropped, and Chambers made the catch of the day when he hauled in a punt that went astray and just went over the head of TBS's own Talo Steves.

-Mendenhall mentioned that Jacobson looks to be the guy to return punts, and he's been very impressed with the player who is sending those punts off to him. Riley Stephenson has been very impressive in each of his practice sessions, showing great height and distance on most punts.

-Kyle Luekenga watched practice from the sidelines. Luekenga is set to graduate with a degree in political science this Thursday.

-Peni Maka'afi saw a lot of work Tuesday and looked to have a very good physical presence about him. Brett Thompson got a lot of work with the second-team offense and continued to impress with his ability to run routes and subsequently get open during most reps.

Defensive standouts were Vic So'oto and Grant Nelson both recording sacks and Robbie Buckner knocking down a pass in coverage. Jordan Pendleton worked out with the ones as Nelson assumed his role with the second-team defense.

-True freshman Fono Vakalahi saw a lot of work playing right tackle with the second-team offense, with Ryan Freeman playing left guard with the twos.


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