Max Hall has quietly compiled some pretty darn good stats this fall. During most practice session he's completed well over 70 percent of his pass attempts, leading to touchdown drives during most sessions. Fans should expect nothing less than dominating practice sessions and prolific outputs from him this season, and it looks as if that is exactly what they're going to get.
I mentioned that I wasn't going to say a word regarding Riley Nelson and his progression until two weeks into fall camp. Indeed, Nelson's timing was very much off and he wasn't able to do much of anything during non-contact work the first week of practice.
Now that the team is well into their second week of practice, Nelson has begun to assert himself. His timing and feel for the offense has seen noticeable improvement since the first days of practice and he's fared best when inserted into contact drills.
Nelson has a knack for making plays when things break down, which could well be defined as his best quality. We'll continue to monitor his progress during the rest of fall, although we can't interview him due to the new rules that forbid new players to be interviewed by the media.
Harvey Unga should have his best season yet. He's slimmed down and seems to have regained a lot of the burst that he lost toward the end of last season. Unga is very much a known commodity and subsequently won't see much work during practices heading into the season opener, but rest assured, he'll have a big year.
I was expecting there to be an intense battle between J.J. Di Luigi and Malosi Te'o from the outset of camp for backup roles, but that hasn't materialized. Di Luigi has seen a great deal of work while maintaining enough production to keep Te'o on the sidelines.
We'll note when and if Te'o starts to get more looks with the first- and second-team offfenses, but right now it certainly appears as if Di Luigi is ticketed for backup duty and Te'o for a likely redshirt. Di Luigi has responded well in every practice situation thus far, so it's clear to see why he's earned the trust of the coaches.
What is of intrigue to me and what I'll be trying to get out of coaches this coming week will be exactly how the wide receiver rotations will work. During 2006 Robert Anae used an equal four-man rotation of McKay Jacobson, Zac Collie, Matt Allen and Michael Reed. During 2007 he slimmed it up to just a three-man rotation of Allen, Reed and Austin Collie before just going with Reed and Collie getting the bulk of the reps last season.
So what the rotation will be this year remains in question. McKay Jacobson and O'Neill Chambers are the two sure things right now at the position, but how many reps each of them will get and who will be rotating in with them holds a lot of intrigue.
Luke Ashworth would probably be the next guy, followed by Spencer Hafoka at this point. Ashworth started out camp slowly, but has begun to assert himself here of late. Hafoka has responded well during most practice sessions he's been involved with.
Of the true freshmen it's Brett Thompson that has really begun to separate himself. Thompson is ahead of the curve regarding knowing the little nuances involved with getting open. He also knows how to use his superior frame and strength to his advantage. I could see coaches finding some sort of role for him this season based on what I've seen from him in camp.
What may be the most pleasant surprise of fall camp at the wideout position is the play of walk-on J.D. Falslev. Falslev is the sort of shifty speedster that could bring back the slot position at BYU. He's looked very good so far this fall, whether it be in running routes or returning kicks.
There isn't a lot to be learned here save for how much better the established front three are looking. Andrew George has caught more passes this session than in any session in recent memory. He's someone that defenses can easily lose track of due to having to account for where Dennis Pitta is at all times. This could lead to some very big gains from George throughout the season.
One player I'm really starting to like more and more is Mike Muehlmann. Muehlmann is more like George than the other tight ends in the program, in that route running is his strength. He's shown very well in drills and has shown enough fluid movement for me to believe that he has a real shot at being in the regular tight end rotation after this year.
Just about everyone fully expects Matt Reynolds to return for the Oklahoma game, which is obviously enormous. Short of the unexpected, the only shakeup along the offensive front will be who exactly replaces Jason Speredon at the left guard spot.
What I believe is that Braden Hansen would be a shoe-in for the role if not for Reynolds' injury. Most of the existing linemen in the program are interior linemen-types, with Hansen obviously being a tackle type. Coaches have to prepare as if Reynolds may not be able to return, which has forced their hand somewhat in Hansen getting just about all his reps at the left tackle position.
Coaches are obviously cross-training their players at the offensive line, and Hansen has seen time during practices at left guard, but I've yet to see him take a single rep at the position during the live situations that end practices. We'll be noting when and if he does.
Coach Weber has obviously stated a lot of confidence in Marco Thorson, and short of Hansen inserting himself at left guard, Thorson looks to be the guy. He's shown very well and has been consistent so far this fall, which could very well lead to a starting role this coming season.
I personally didn't feel Jesse Taufi was very far behind Speredon in regards to overall performance out of spring, but the late date he'll be joining practice - if he's allowed to rejoin the team at all prior to the Oklahoma game - probably doesn't indicate a starting role. Hopefully Taufi can get his academics in order, as he would be one of the frontrunners for a starting role once he does.
The next two candidates would likely be Ryan Freeman and Houston Reynolds. Freeman has loads of talent and has looked good so far this fall. His ceiling is probably higher than the other options at the spot other than Hansen's. He has proven he can play during game situations, which gives him an obvious advantage over the others.
Reynolds has been mentioned by coaches as the first-year player most likely to contribute at the position. In being a member of the Reynolds family, he's ahead of the curve and is obviously receiving a load of extra instruction from his older brother Matt and from his father.
The good news is that there are indeed talented options to fill in at the spot left vacant by Speredon's injury. Who mans the position and how Weber mixes up his line will certainly be the first things I'll be watching during the duration of fall camp.