New Era on Display at LaVell Edwards Stadium

For the first time on Saturday, many new Cougars suited up and walked out onto the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium for an open practice session. Cougar fans from all around saw firsthand the quarterback battle and many new talented players they've heard or read about.

"I think we were trying to get a lot of guys reps today, and introduce the stadium to a lot of new guys," said Cougar running back Bryan Kariya. "LaVell Edwards Stadium is a special place to play. We all have to know that when you come here you have to turn it up, right?"

Riley Nelson took the reins of the offense first, and after a two-yard loss by running back J.J. Di Luigi, outside linebacker Jameson Frazier recorded a sack. The first Cougar offensive series sputtered a bit against the first-team defense and ended after an incomplete pass to McKay Jacobson downfield.

"I think there were a lot of great things that happened out there, but I also think there are some things we have to work on," Kariya said. "Today was a great stepping stone to see where we are and evaluate where we are right now. I think we're right on track and I think we're where we need to be."

Heaps took the second series against the second-team defense and fared well. After an incomplete pass to Matt Marshall, Heaps hit sophomore running back David Foote and receivers Cody Hoffman, Spencer Hafoka and tight end Austin Holt in the first offensive series. Running back A.J. Moore, a true freshman running back, also got into the action during the series.

"I think the guys we have out here, regardless of how long they've been in the program, they're doing a great job," said Kariya. "They're working and studying hard so I'm not surprised by how fast they've progressed within the program. Everybody is giving everything they have to get ready for the season."

"I think we have a great group," said McKay Jacobson. "Coach Higgins is doing a great job just teaching us how to be route runners and better receivers and working on the physical aspect of route running."

Heaps' second series behind center was a very impressive showing by the true freshman gunslinger. After a booming punt by Riley Stephenson that placed the ball on the 2-yard line, Heaps again distributed the ball well. He showed a maturity beyond his years, first checking off receivers three times before hitting a strike to true freshman running back Joshua Quezada. It was an impressive display of skill and poise.

"I think Jake showed great composure back in the pocket," said Kariya. "Sometimes young quarterbacks get happy feet back there sometimes and will run around a little bit. He was just calm and collective and was able to find the open guy."

Receiver Luke Ashworth got into the action during the series by hauling in a pass. J.J. Di Luigi did as well, catching a 21-yard pass from Heaps. The 98-yard drive culminated with a long touchdown pass to Jacobson.

"We did a good job on that drive," Jacobson said. "We had some third downs we had to convert, and J.J. did a good job of converting those. We had a good drive there and we were able to finish it off."

Cougar fans saw the two different styles that Nelson and Heaps bring to the field. Nelson was able to keep some drives alive with the use of his legs, and he also hit receivers like O'Neill Chambers, Rhen Brown and Jacobson.

"I think that Riley is a great passer first of all, and I think that side of his game gets overlooked sometimes," Kariya said. "He obviously has that side and ability to run the ball when he needs to, but I completely trust him when he needs to throw. He's right on target."

During the scrimmage Heaps used more of the offense and had the more impressive showing of the day. He used more of the weapons the offense possesses, and this could be a key in the quarterback battle.

"I think you have to kind of plan it around your personnel a little bit," Jacobson said. "We do have plays that do fit the different skill sets the different quarterbacks have. There are even things the wide receivers are doing to help with that, but I think this is what you have to do. You have to go with what you've got and go with your strengths."

"They're both very different athletes," Cody Hoffman said. "Jake's a pocket passer and Riley is more of a scrambler, so as receivers you have to kind of get used to that. The play calling is the same for both of them, but they work the play to their ability."

So what was learned out at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday?

"What I take from today is you just have to come out here and be intense as a whole," Jacobson said. "We had a few penalties there and I think we should be a little cleaner than that, but overall we made some plays out there and the defense made some plays. I'm just really excited about the direction the team is heading towards overall."

"We kind of build on scripts that we have and we add a little more and tweak it a little bit," Kariya said. "It's not a huge change from day to day. We just kind of add a few things here and there, like a couple of motions here and there. As long as we understand the basic concepts of what we're running we'll be fine. I think that's to the coaches' credit and how we're able to learn things really well out here."

Wide Receiver Checkmarks

The goal of the receivers during Saturday's practice performance was to polish off all that had been implemented during the week.

"We worked a lot on timing to get a lot of timing down with our quarterbacks while going full speed since we don't go full speed that often," said Hoffman. "We wanted to try and do all those things in a real life game setting. So getting our timing down going full speed in a game setting is what we wanted to get down. We incorporated a lot of plays and just put them in for today to see how it all worked out. I wouldn't say it was more of the playbook, but just all that we've learned this past week we incorporated into the script today."

Offensive Lineman Checkmarks

"I know the goals of today, especially for the offensive linemen, was to come out here and just be fluid," said Travis Hansen. "We wanted to make sure we came out here and did our assignments and make our blocks and do whatever we needed to be done. Overall, the offensive linemen did a good job out here today.

"Yeah, we wanted to make sure we did our part in making the blocks and doing our assignments regardless of what quarterback was in. Our goals were to come out here and play physical to let everybody know that was here watching that we're going to take care of business every single day, especially in this stadium. I think we did that."

Total Blue Sports Top Stories