Spring Practice Report: Day Twelve

Following Friday's scrimmage, the team went lighter with no pads on Monday and focused on pass-heavy 7-on-7 drills. Both Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson rose to the occasion and guided the offense to touchdowns. Andrew Rich participated during the 7-on-7 drills, which was the most work he's seen so far this spring.

"He's pretty good, isn't he - just the background he's had with his high school system and the number of throws he's had and the championships he's won," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall when asked about Jake Heaps' performance not only Monday, but the entire spring so far. "The drop-back game is what he's best suited for, so he's having a nice spring so far."

Heaps finished the day with touchdown passes thrown to O'Neill Chambers from 10 yards out and then to Mike Muehlmann from 16 yards out. His best work came against the first-team defense, when he went 8-of-11 for 82 yards and his touchdown pass to Muehlmann across the middle.

During the drive he converted a fourth-and-long by hitting a clearing Devin Mahina up the middle. The coverages were tighter than normal with the first-team defense, as Andrew Rich saw full work from his strong safety spot. He made his presence known immediately by laying out to knock down a would-be touchdown pass to Mahina as the team approached the end zone.

Not to be outdone, Riley Nelson made quick work of the second-team defense by completing all three of his passes for a combined 72 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown pass to Chambers.

Safety Dance

One of the focuses this spring has been to find adequate safety help to fill in for Scott Johnson. Mendenhall has made it known on several occasions that the two positions he'd like to be strongest at are free safety and middle linebacker.

So far in, Steven Thomas has been manning the free safety position with the first-team defense. Although he's had his moments, the position is hardly secure with a proven performer. Mendenhall said the search for Johnson's replacement will continue until fall practices.

"It depends on when Andrew Rich comes back and is fully healthy and finding who the next safety is regardless of position," explained Mendenhall. "If the next safety is a Kat, then Andrew Rich will play free safety, and if the next safety play free, then Andrew can stay at Kat. Of the three or four safeties that are competing right now, one of them has to clearly emerge as the number two."

The three that are competing - Steven Thomas, Jray Galea'i and Travis Uale - are dead even right now according to Mendenhall. While Thomas has been seeing exclusive reps at free safety, Galeai and Uale have been competing at the strong safety or Kat safety position.

"Like at our quarterback, each of them have different strengths," he said about the three competing for the number two safety spot this spring. "None of them have established themselves clearly enough for me to say to you guys who it's going to be. It's going to take more time."

Mendenhall mentioned that they'll try out incoming freshmen Kori Gaines and Jordan Johnson at safety upon their arrival this fall. Switching a cornerback to the safety position is still being considered, but it isn't necessarily likely.

"It's a possibility, but I like our depth and I like our play that we have there," said Mendenhall. "There would probably have to be a significant drop-off from one of our safeties before I feel like we have to move a corner over there."

Going forward this week, Mendenhall plans to practice relatively light before heading into the final practice session on Saturday. In reviewing the film of Friday's scrimmage, ball security and the defense giving up too many big plays were the concerns he'll look to address.

"It wasn't the level of execution on either side that I would have hoped for," he commented about the scrimmage. "It was very competitive and hard-hitting and they were playing fast, but they weren't as consistent as I would have hoped."

Practice Notes

-Junior Kaveinga was in attendance at practice, along with his mother. He's considering walking on to BYU's team this coming fall.

-Jacob Hannemann and a lot of his family were also in attendance, along with Bronson Kaufusi.

-Fumbled snaps, a problem this spring, again reared their ugly head. Braden Hansen was manning the center position and had a couple of low snaps and a fumbled snap.

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