Spring Practice Report: Day Two

Day two saw the young guns once again make their presence felt, as two freshmen again accounted for touchdowns. The execution was much cleaner on the offensive side of the football, as all three of the new quarterbacks improved upon their initial day of practices.

"I was really impressed with the start they had yesterday in James [Lark] and Jake [Heaps]," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall when asked about the strides they've made two days in. "In seeing how both of them did with day one and day two, I was impressed."

Mendenhall was quick to point out that although he's been impressed with Lark and Heaps considering that it's Heaps' first practice session and Lark's first since his before his mission, that's not to suggest that Riley Nelson isn't doing well. Nelson has, in fact, been showing very well during his first two days and was able to lead the offense to a touchdown during Tuesday's practice. He completed 4-of-5 passes for 33 yards.

Nelson capped off his touchdown drive by hitting freshman tight end Richard Wilson on a short corner route from four yards out.

"Oh, man, I loved that, you don't even know," said Wilson about catching his first touchdown pass while playing with the first-team offense. "I've been working hard to work my way up and this is my chance, so yeah, that felt great catching a pass like that and I hope many more come my way."

Heaps accounted for the play of the day, hitting a streaking McKay Jacobson for a 56-yard touchdown pass. Heaps was able to buy time in the pocket before spotting a wide open Jacobson, who broke free from the defense on a fly pattern. Heaps finished the day going 2-of-4 for 72 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.

Lark, meanwhile, looked much improved upon Monday's performance. He completed 5-of-7 pass attempts for 44 yards. Devin Mahina, like Wilson, made his presence felt from the tight end position, hauling in a couple of passes for 31 yards. Mahina and Wilson are battling Mike Muehlmann for the starting tight end spot.

"Didn't see much from them yesterday, but they didn't have many opportunities," said Mendenhall about his tight ends. "By the time spring practice is over we're going to have to know who the primary tight ends are, if there is a single starter, etc., and I think we took a big step today at least in assessing what they might do when the ball is thrown to them."

Every tight end's goal is the same in that they want the starting position.

"Oh, we all want to play to be sure and both Mike and Devin are very talented guys and it's great competing against them," said Wilson. "It's so much fun being able to compete for real for the first time after being here for a year, just working hard on getting as good as I can for this spring when we all knew the position would be open."

While they're all conscious of the competition at the position, Wilson mentioned that all he can do is concentrate on getting better with every practice.

"When your number is called upon you have to make the play. That's the most important thing. You have to show coaches that you can make the play when they ask you to. You have to read the safeties, the backers and the rest of the coverage to know whether to run a seam or sit down in a zone, so it's a challenge getting a feel for that."

Wilson and the rest had the great opportunity to learn from two of the better tight ends ever to pass through the program in Dennis Pitta and Andrew George. They took copious notes, and hope to emulate their play this coming year and in subsequent years.

"Those were the two best tight ends in the nation last year, so having the opportunity to learn from them was awesome," said Wilson. "Just sitting in film sessions with them and watching how they worked, it's a huge benefit for me and for all of us."

Wilson, probably more so than any other player on last year's team, really forged strong relationships with the incoming freshmen such as Jake Heaps, Ross Apo, Kyle Van Noy and Joshua Quezada. Having all them here with him now as teammates has been a welcomed sight, and he's been impressed with the progress he's seen in all of them.

"They're all making plays," he observed. "You saw it, you saw it today with Heaps throwing that touchdown pass, Joshua yesterday with that touchdown run, and if Ross was in there, you bet that he'd be making plays as well. What's great is that everyone is making plays. All the quarterbacks are doing great with Riley leading us to a score today. We really like where we're at right now, but we just need to get better day by day."

Practice Notes

-O'Neil Chambers returned to practices today after sitting out the first session with academic catchup issues. He did not participate during skeletons or 11-on-11 drills, however

-Notable attendees of Tuesday's practice session included Jackson Munns, who is the younger brother of Jason Munns. He plays linebacker and is being evaluated by the Cougar coaching staff. Chris Copier from Bingham was in attendance as well, as he has accepted a preferred walk-on spot and will join the team this coming August.

-Braden Hansen saw the bulk of the reps at center on Tuesday, and coaches look to rotate that position on a daily basis until they find the right combination of a starting front five.

-Kyle Van Noy saw almost all of his reps with the first-team defense and showed well on a couple of occasions.

-Corby Eason has switched to boundary cornerback, and the new deep snapper so far is Mike Hague, who was asked to try out for the spot because he had some deep-snapping experience back in high school.


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