Saturday's Scrimmage



Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

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We start with some bad news from this morning's scrimmage at Edwards Stadium: starting NT Russell Tialavea suffered a "significant" injury to his right knee in the first series of the day. Bronco says it's a possible ACL--an MRI is scheduled, and if it confirms suspicions, then Tialavea would be done for the season.

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Other injury notes include the following players held out of the scrimmage:

-RB Fui Vakapuna (conditioning concerns...nothing to worry about. Trainers just want Fui to feel totally comfortable before running him full speed)

-WR Bryce Mahuika (sore knee after stepping on Ben Criddle's foot while attempting a catch Friday afternoon)

-WR Michael Reed (hamstring)

-WR Ryan Neeley (groin)

-WR Saia Hafoka (knee)

-OL Matt Reynolds (concussion)

-LB Kelly Bills (concussion)

-WR Griffin Miller (quad)

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Now to the good news (if you were an offensive player)--the 1st-string offense had a nice day. Max Hall led 4 scoring drives in 5 opportunities (3 touchdowns and a 42-yard Mitch Payne field goal). The first score came on the first series of the day, as Max was perfect in completing all of his passes, while Harvey Unga and Manase Tonga lowered their shoulders on some punishing runs. From inside the 10-yard line, Joe Semanoff capped off the drive with a bruising scamper into the end zone, and the defense was officially ticked off right from the get-go.

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While James Lark and Jason Munns split second-string series, nothing much of note happened while they were on the field, so I'll concentrate on Hall's series (primarily vs. the #1 defense). Hall's second series stalled on a "soft sack," but on his 3rd series, we had the highlight play of the day--Harvey Unga taking a swing pass about 60 yards down the west sideline the score. Harv's run was very nice, but so too were the downfield blocks by the wideouts and Vic So'oto. I was reminded of Lance Reynolds comment to me from last year's camp, when he told me that the back he was liking the most at the time was the freshman, Harvey Unga. He told me he just loved the way he ran. A hip injury on a punt return vs. Boston College prematurely ended his season in 2006, but he's back and looks better than ever.

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Hall's 4th series of the day culminated in a Mitch Payne 42-yard field goal, but it was not a good day for Payne, who had two PAT's hit the uprights (one good, one no good), and another PAT blocked (Kehl). In that 4th series, Kehl dropped a sure pick, for which Hall thanked #41 after practice. I think it was Quinn Gooch who said Kehl has "hands like feet" (sounds like something Quinn would say).

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Hall's 5th and final series of the day featured a deep pass between the hashes that Austin Collie took in for a 50-yard score. To be fair, the offense was facing the 2nd-string safeties and 4th-string corners, but the minute the ball left Max's hands and I saw Austin's separation, I knew it was six.

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For final stats on today's scrimmage, check out byucougars.com--SID Jeff Reynolds will update as soon as all of his numbers are official. This much I know--there were very few incompletions thrown by Max Hall this morning. I'll be interested to see his final tally.

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With Tialavea out, true freshman Eathyn Manumaleuna took his spot with the ones--surpassing redshirt JC transfer Mo Foketi on the depth chart. Manumaleuna is one of the new guys I was told might be able to contribute right away, and it looks like he's going to get his chance as a fresh-faced rookie (much like Fuga and Dulan and Tonga did last season).

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BYU is keeping an eye on one of Foketi's important summer classes right now--and now more than ever, it's important he stay scholastically sound, or BYU is going to be grasping at straws at the NT position. What kinds of straws? Let's just say certain offensive linemen might want to start thinking about three-point stances.

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With Mahuika out, Daniel Tervort was the #1 HR, while Tyler Kozlowski was the 3rd outside receiver (due to the absence of both Reed and Mahuika). Koz drew a PI call on Brandon Howard on a streak down the west sideline (pass thrown by Hall).

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Chris Bolden and Grant Nelson saw a decent number of 1st-team reps in place of David Nixon and Bryan Kehl, respectively--and neither looked out of place. We'll hear from Nelson on Monday's "Cougar Daily Download." Kehl, by the way, was extremely upset with the defense's performance today. The normally outgoing and chirpy linebacker was sullen and serious after the scrimmage, and used unflattering words to describe the defense's effort. I think Bryan will be in a better mood when he speaks at tonight's "Big Blue Bash" at the Salt Lake City Sheraton. Even if he's not in a better mood, I'm still looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

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BYU sent punt returners back, but did not run "live" punt returns. Guys back to field punts today were Austin Collie and Reed White, primarily, but again, don't read too much into that--they just needed someone back there to catch the ball. Same deal on kickoff return--players were back to field the ball, but no "live returns." Returners were J.J. DiLuigi, Ryan Kessman, Collie, and Cortny Barton. Remember that Mahuika was not available today, but he is a primary return option, of course.

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C.J. Santiago's punting today was average to good, while Mitch Payne's kickoffs were fielded at the 5-yard line, on average. With the NCAA rules change (kickoffs from the 30-yard line), expect very few touchbacks this season. BYU's returners were positioning themselves at the 5-yard line for returns. Payne, by the way, also missed a somewhat lengthy field goal wide right.

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DiLuigi got late reps with the 2nd and 3rd-stringers, and showed toughness and shiftiness. He also got very tired, and was asking for Wayne Latu to give him a breather. It was hot in the stadium this morning, and the guys were feeling it late in the scrimmage. The kickoff for the season opener is set for 3:30pm, and between the heat in Provo and the heat in Tucson, both teams should be prepared to face the elements three weeks from today.

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DL Sean Sullivan and David Angilau got a few reps alongside Manumaleuna with the 1st-string defense today. Angilau is another freshman Bronco identified early in camp as someone who might be able to contribute as a newcomer.

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In the secondary, safeties Jordan Pendleton and Aaron Attig and corners Brandon Howard and Scott Johnson were thrown in for a few snaps with the "ones." Again, no depth chart moves, just the coaches trying to identify guys who might be able to play down the line.

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BYU ran 60 plays today. Next scrimmage is set for next Saturday.

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Faces in the crowd: BYU AD Tom Holmoe watched from the south end zone. He was in San Francisco this week for the Bill Walsh memorial services--said it was pretty amazing. Former linebacker Mike Tanner was on hand--he's back living in Utah after a couple of years in Montana. There were plenty of family in the stands for a scrimmage that was otherwise closed. Marc Lyons was present (with strapping son Aaron), and took offense to my comment of the other day that "he doesn't look a day over 70." Marc's right--I should have said 65.

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That's all for now. From a bench beneath the bleachers in the north end zone of Edwards Stadium, I am signing off. See you all tonight at the "Big Blue Bash."

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