Fall Practice Report: Day Four

Early on the defense responded nicely to the previous day's lackluster performance before the offense came back to finish strong. Several factors contributed to the offense not being as sharp as it otherwise would be, a coaches are changing up their practice regimen to some degree. G-man reports on all of the day-four happenings during fall camp.

Early on the offense was sluggish, as illegal procedure penalties severely limited whatever production it otherwise would have had. The offense recovered toward the end of practice as it started to hit its stride, but the first half of team drills was won by the defense.

"One thing we've asked of them, which we've never done is a fall camp, is have them go with multiple snap counts right from the beginning," explained head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "So the combination of that with the inexperience on the offensive line is explaining some of it, but there's a lot of discipline that needs to be developed."

One notable addition to the first-team defensive ranks was true freshman Craig Bills seeing reps at free safety all throughout practice. Bills made his presence known quickly, as he closed on a pass across the middle and knocked it down.

"Craig Bills is a very good player," said Mendenhall. "He's a very good athlete that is learning in our system and how to apply it."

Mendenhall mentioned that other true freshmen will be used in similar situations as Bills was Wednesday in an effort to better instruct them. "We think it will accelerate their learning," he said. "Rather than be out there with multiple players that are learning and not sure, to have someone out there to help direct them when they're uncertain is a better strategy."

Adding to that strategy, Mendenhall had established starter Scott Johnson running with the third-team defense at free safety. "They have a great idea of the bigger picture of this," he said about both Johnson and Andrew Rich. "It's not really about them. They're just trying to help out not only our team, but our future teams, so it's pretty unselfish on their part."

Another notable change with the first-team defense coming out was Lee Aguirre playing at boundary cornerback, as Brandon Bradley didn't participate in team drills due to his knee injury.

The first series of team drills saw the offense go three-and-out after quarterback Max Hall managed two short passes to J.J. Di Luigi and an incompletion. Andrew Rich made the standout play during the first series, closing in very fast on Di Luigi in the flat and stopping him for just a 1-yard gain.

The offense then began to pick it up, as Hall finished the day going 21-of-27 for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Hall's touchdowns came by way of an 8-yard pass to tight end Dennis Pitta and a scoring strike to McKay Jacobson from about 30 yards out.

The Nelson Plan

Quarterback Riley Nelson has seen limited reps during practices so far, but that's due for a change according to Mendenhall. "Ideally we'd like to get Riley eight-to-twelve quarters this year," he mentioned. "Brenden [Gaskins] has already been talked to and he knows that he still is the backup currently and what we're trying to get Riley caught up so eventually we can start grooming him for the future. When the torch is to be passed I‘m not certain, but that is the plan."

As of right now Gaskins will be the one replacing Hall if he were to go down. Gaskins completed one of his five passes Wednesday for ten yards, while Nelson completed his lone pass attempt for a 4-yard gain.

Practice Notes

-Jake Heaps attended Wednesday's practice session with his parents and soon-to-be Cougar Kyle Van Noy.

-Another soon-to-be Cougar was in attendance as well. Aveni Leung-Wai was at practice and will enroll in school this upcoming semester before joining the team in January.

-Matt Reynolds suffered a fractured hand and will be seeing a specialist. More will be known Thursday.

-Brandon Bradley's MRI came back negative and he should be joining the team in practices shortly.

-Terrance Hooks is expected to miss two weeks before rejoining the team in practices with his pulled hamstring.

-Several new faces were with the second-team defense, including Romney Fuga at nose tackle, Brian Logan at field corner, Landon Jaussi at boundary and Steven Thomas switching over to play free safety. Jameson Frazier was playing strong side linebacker, as Grant Nelson was held out due to a minor injury.

-In what has become a very familiar scene, McKay Jacobson hauled in yet another pass from about 30 yards out - the aforementioned touchdown - from Hall during the second series of 11-on-11s. Defensive highlights during the first series of reps included pass knockdowns from both Garett Nicholson and the aforementioned knockdown from Bills. Jan Jorgensen recorded a sack on the very first play.

-Spencer Hafoka had the catch of the day, laying out in the back of the end zone for a pass during one-on-one drills. O'Neill Chambers added a very impressive one-handed grab during the same series of drills.

-A scout from the Washington Redskins was observing practice.

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