Fall Practice Report: Day Five

The team practiced in full pads for the first time this fall and also went live toward the end of practice. Bodies were flying, pads were popping and quite a few fumbled snaps and procedure penalties accompanied the fifth day of practice.

"It was a good day for both sides," commented head coach Bronco Mendenhall following Thursday's practice. "I wasn't really planning to go live at the end, but it looks like they want to play even though we're beat up a bit. It looks like they had fun, so I think it's worth it."

There were several lineup changes, including Corby Eason and Lee Aguirre seeing reps with the first-team defense while Craig Bills was also with the ones for the second day in a row. "They're doing well," commented Mendenhall about Eason and Aguirre specifically. "Their legs are tired and their minds are tired, they're capable and they're getting slower after everything they have to learn builds up on them, but to get a chance just to play ball seemed like it brightened them up a bit, which is good."

One of the more scary moments of practice came when quarterback Max Hall went down as he was rolled into by an on-rushing defensive lineman. "That makes you question your decisions as a head coach when you see things like that," said Mendenhall regarding what could have been a significant injury as a result of him choosing to go live. Hall was fine, but it sure put a bit of a scare into the coaches and players.

Mendenhall reported the Matt Reynolds' surgery went well as they attempted to fix his broken hand with three screws and a plate. He mentioned that his injury was very similar to the broken hand Fui Vakapuna sustained a few years ago. Reynolds will most likely play against Oklahoma, although there is no definite timetable for his return at the current time.

Reynolds will likely be out 2-3 weeks and will be fitted with a rubberized splint initially until the hand heals. In his place, Braden Hansen will play left tackle as Nick Alletto plays right tackle.

Overall, Mendenhall mentioned that there are as many as 24 players on the current roster with some sort of ailment. The amount of injuries is attributable to how much harder the team has been practicing so far this fall according to the Cougar head coach. "The amount of work we got done the first four days to me justified the bumps and bruises," he stated. "I think it set the right tone, so it paid off, but now we'll balance it out a bit and get some more healthy guys for next week."

Mendenhall has been pleased so far with the defensive end position. "What's really nice now is the emergence of Romney Fuga and Tevita Hola at nose. There are three capable nose tackles, which may allow Russ [Tialavea] to play some end. Then you also have Matt Putnam and Vic So'oto, so you have seven guys working and we're deeper than it has been in regards to players that can rotate effectively." Mendenhall termed Hola as being the most improved player on the team currently.

Practice Notes

-As mentioned, the offense had a tough time to get going during most live situations as procedure penalties and fumbled snaps set back the offensive unit early on. Max Hall was able to finish the practice completing 15 of his 17 pass attempts for 98 yards.

-Matt Putnam blocked a field goal attempt during the final set of practice. Other defensive highlights included Andrew Rich making two consecutive tackles in the flat and thus holding passes to very minimal gains. Scott Johnson filled the gap at least twice from his free safety position to stuff runs.

-Bryan Kariya was the top receiver Thursday, catching four passes for 25 yards.

-Former Oceansiders Vic So'oto and Russell Tialavea combined for a sack during live drills. Tialavea rotated with Fuga and Hola as each got work with the first-team defense

-True freshman Richard Wilson saw time playing strong side linebacker with the second-team defense and showed well, hurrying Brenden Gaskins out of the pocket to force an incompletion.

-Top recruit Jake Heaps again attended practice with his family and good friend Kyle Van Noy.


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