Elsewhere on the offense, the quarterbacks looked sharp once again. Freshman Austin Apodaca consistently was hitting his targets in stride after having a tough first couple days of camp. Neither Jeff Tuel nor Connor Halliday threw an interception during the day, but junior quarterback David Gilbertson had a tough time finding his receivers most of the day. Junior cornerback Damante Horton took advantage of the veteran Gilbertson, intercepting three of his passes during situational scrimmaging.
In the trenches, the offensive line had junior John Fullington leading the way and it showed. The entire offensive line opened up big holes for running backs Leon Brooks, Marcus Mason and Carl Winston to run through for most of the day.
Senior Wade Jacobson was present, but did not participate as he was not padded up.
"Once we get fired up, we're a talented bunch," Fullington said. "We've all been working hard and putting in the work."
Fullington said the mindset of the team from years past is night and day, adding that he expects to win every game.
Sophomore Jake Rodgers returned to practice and played a majority of the day at right tackle with junior Rico Forbes out with an apparent right calf injury. Forbes was on crutches and had his right calf taped extensively. He was not suited up, instead working on individual strength and conditioning drills throughout practice.
The crowded wide receivers group was highlighted once again by two youngsters wowing the veterans. Freshman Gabe Marks continued his incredible fall, hauling in every pass thrown his direction. Marks skied for numerous balls over the middle, displaying his impressive open-field ball skills after each catch. Similarly, sophomore Bennett Bontemps was the most impressive wideout in the one-on-one drills, beating every corner back he faced up against and getting huge amounts of separation off the line.
ON THE DEFENSIVE SIDE of the ball, progress is clearly evident. Freshmen linebackers Khalil Pettway and Jeremiah Allison both looked strong in 7-7 drills, although it is clear they both still are learning where they need to be in certain situations.
Another new face in the front seven, junior Justin Sagote, got extensive work with the first-team defense, repeatedly receiving rave reviews from the coaching staff. The 6-foot, 220- pound Sagote came up and played the run better than any other linebacker, constantly cracking pads with the running backs in the backfield.
The first-team defensive line included junior Matthew Bock, sophomore Toni Pole and freshman Xavier Cooper. Cooper, who has put on more than 20 pounds in the offseason, looks to be good option at the nose tackle position as camp has progressed.
First-team linebackers haven't changed as senior Travis Long, junior Eric Oertel, sophomore Chester Su'a, and freshman Daryl Monroe all ran with the first team. Although not on the starting front seven, sophomore BUCK linebacker Logan Mayes has made quite an impression on the defense.
"Even though we clown on him, Logan (Mayes) has the highest energy motor of this entire team," Pole said. "If we had 11 guys that fought to get to the ball like that guy does on a down-to-down basis, nobody would move the ball on us."
Mayes regularly rotated in with the first-team defense.
Meanwhile, the secondary was a mixed bag once again. As noted previously, the ball-hawking Horton had a big day, hauling in three interceptions. Redshirt freshman Brandon Golden had a tough day, drawing criticism from defensive coaches throughout the afternoon as he often looked lost in coverage.
Junior corner Nolan Washington sat out once again, spending most of his afternoon on the stationary bike. Meanwhile, senior corner Daniel Simmons took advantage, showcasing his man-coverage skills for most of the afternoon. The Cougars have some talented starting corners, just a real lack of depth behind them.
Incoming freshman Raymond Ford was a spectator for the third day in a row.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Tracy Clark may have the biggest mouth on the entire team. The sophomore corner took jabs at every receiver he lined up against, often calling out junior Marquess Wilson. Most notable of the verbal stabs was aimed toward freshman receiver Drew Loftus.
"Seriously though, get this man some Wheaties!"Clark shouted.
Following his rant, Clark once again called out Wilson, although he would never get his chance to go mano-a-mano with the All-American.