Spring Practice Begins

This spring it's all about the quarterbacks. Replacing Max Hall and his three years of starting experience isn't an easy task by any stretch of the imagination, but three players will compete for the starting quarterback position. Other newcomers saw their first practice session as well, and there are a lot of voids to be filled.

"We're just so excited to be out there," expressed senior cornerback Brian Logan. "This year it's different for me, as I'm teaching when last time I was doing my best to learn, but it was fun seeing all the new guys. They looked real good for their first practice session for sure."

One play of note for the newcomers was Jake Heaps completing an 18-yard pass just short of the goal line after bating Logan into jumping on what he thought was a short route.

"I tease Jake all the time that I'm going to give him stuff starting out, so he doesn't get down or feel bad - giving him secret signs to tip him off about what we're going to do," said Logan with a laugh. "But seriously, he got us on that pass and it's good to see him have some success during his first session. The other guys did well too and it's going to be a real battle there for the spot."

Heaps finished the day completing 2-of-4 passes for 25 yards. Riley Nelson meanwhile got the bulk of the reps and finished 5-of-7 for 33 yards. James Lark missed on all three of his pass attempts.

"Riley certainly knows the most about the system because of experience," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall when asked about the quarterback competition. "In terms of talent, all three are very skilled and bring something special to what their skill set is. After one day it's hard to assess, other than that they have the skills necessary, and we'll se how it plays out."

Mendenhall noted that there isn't a specific timetable to determine who the starting quarterback will be, although he'd definitely like to make a decision before summer. Should someone emerge, then they'll be quick to name him the starter, but they won't make the decision without a lot of consideration.

O'Neill Chambers was absent from the practice field as he works on his academics. His academic progress will be determined on a week-by-week basis, and he could join the team as early as next week.

Another player who has been working out with the team, but hasn't joined the team yet, is Austen Jorgensen. Mendenhall mentioned that he hasn't enrolled yet, but will do so and join the team during spring semester and will compete for a spot this coming fall.

Leading the offensive highlights was true-freshman running back Joshua Quezada scampering outside of the defense on his way to a 36-yard touchdown run during his first ever practice session at the collegiate level.

"Joshua Quezada is has nice speed, nice awareness and very good maturity with good quickness and strength," noted Mendenhall. "We've seen that throughout the offseason workouts, and as you watched today you saw a couple of true freshmen in Jake Heaps, Josh Quezada and Kyle Van Noy and they weren't out of place from day number one."

Monday's practice session and the next few sessions will be mostly about installation while the team gets itself back into practice mode. Another newcomer that made an immediate impact during offseason workouts - which earned him a starting nod the first day of practice - was linebacker Uona Kaveinga, although he won't be eligible to play this coming season due to transfer stipulations.

"We're very thin at inside linebacker [this spring] and we'll probably only see one of those players that are there right now see action this coming season, and that's Avani Leung-Wai," said Mendenhall. "We have four more guys that will be joining us this fall, but right now you just have a bunch of walk-ons that are trying to earn spots other than Vinny [Leung-Wai]."

Mixing and Matching

The first day of practices saw Terence Brown at the starting center position, Braden Brown at right tackle, Nick Alletto at right guard, Braden Hansen at left guard and Matt Reynolds at left tackle. According to Brown, that formation is hardly set in stone.

"We're going to rotate a lot of guys there and it really doesn't mean anything that I was the guy there today," he said. "We're just going to work guys in and out of the position and then decide which is the best fit all-around."

Given the collective experience along the offensive line, a lot of things can be tried because most players have been cross-trained at various positions before this spring. In the end, they'll continue to try new positions until offensive line coach Mark Weber rests upon who his best front five will be.

"Every position is different a bit with specific technique, so it's a bit of a challenge, but we're all up for the challenge," said Brown. "Center has a lot more stuff with all the calls and that, but I love it. I'll play wherever they want me to to make our team better. We're all maturing as a line still, we're still young with a bunch of juniors and sophomores, but we're going to be good for sure this year."

Family First

The new theme for the team this year according to Brian Logan is "Family First," and he credits himself for helping formulate that theme.

"While we were the "Band of Brothers" in the past, that wasn't really what we do," he explained. "I got together with the defensive coaches and talked about how the best teams I've been a part of from when I was only seven years old up to when I was 17 were teams that emphasized being a family and felt like a family, so that's what we're all about. We're going to concentrate more on doing stuff as a family outside of football to grow closer and better as a team off of the field."

Logan and his teammates will be more than accommodating to their new teammates, as he came away very impressed with them after the first day of practice.

"You can already see how good those guys are going to be and it's exciting," he noted. "They're already making plays and if they're already doing that in their first practice, then man, they're going to be very good in the future. This year I'm being more vocal and it's great to see the young guys respond even without you having to say anything."

Practice Notes

-Some notable faces at practice included Bingham's Tuni Kanuch, Manoa Pikula, and assistant coach George Pritchard - father of Iona and Baker Pritchard. Bronson Kaufusi was also in attendance, along with former players Dennis Pitta, Jan Jorgensen, Kayle Buchanan and Nate Meikle.

-The ones on defense during the first day of practice included Steven Thomas and Travis Uale at safety with Kaveinga and Leung-Wai at inside linebacker. At outside linebacker it was Jordan Atkinson and Jameson Frazier seeing work with the first-teamers during day one.


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