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Cougar Tracks: Camp Cougar, Day 2

Cougar Tracks: Camp Cougar, Day 2



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The Cougars held a two-hour helmets-only practice late Friday afternoon in Provo, with the players facing a quick turnaround before camp's first morning session on Saturday.

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said his players had "less enthusiasm, but better execution" on day two of camp. "The focus was still good. We got more done today (than Thursday)."

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A pair of projected starters got nothing done on Friday, as wide receiver Cody Hoffman and safety Joe Sampson missed practice with what Mendenhall called a "team discipline issue." The coach said both players would return for Saturday's practice. While all of the players who practiced today will be in shoulder pads tomorrow, the players who missed today (including Hoffman and Sampson) will be helmets-only on Saturday, as part of the NCAA-mandated acclimatization process.

Regulations stipulate that players go helmets-only for practices one and two, followed by shells (helmets/shoulder pads) in practices three and four, with full pads permissible on a player's fifth day of practice.

Other players who sat out Friday's practice included DL Russell Tialavea and OL Brock Stringham, both with left ankle sprains. OL Fono Vakalahi sat out for conditioning purposes, while OL Walter Kahaiali'i missed his second straight day of practice while returning from Hawai'i. Kahaiali'i is expected to practice tomorrow.

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You can hear Mendenhall's post-practice comments in "Cougar Cuts," above left, in addition to Jason Shepherd's post-practice interviews with NT Romney Fuga and QB/WR Alex Kuresa, who talks about his position switch--a switch Mendenhall also discussed on Friday.

"He will be a receiver, slot, quarterback, football player, this year," said Mendenhall. Kuresa told Jason that the switch is temporary, with plans to move back to QB after his mission, on which he will depart after the 2012 season.

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Friday's practice ended with an 11-on-11 session that saw quarterbacks Riley Nelson, James Lark, Taysom Hill and Ammmon Olsen all get snaps. Sidelines chains/sticks were moved on a handful of occasions, but for the most part, the format was similar to Thursday, with no ball advancement.

Nelson was sharp in completing seven of ten passes to five different receivers; he was intercepted once, by Daniel Sorensen.

Running backs were Nelson's primary targets, and in the absence of pads, the backs have perhaps looked the best through days one and two, led by Michael Alisa, Iona Pritchard and David Foote, who have combined to comprise the first-string backfield.

While acknowledging "not enough time yet" to draw conclusions about the running backs, Mendenhall said Alisa returns as the starter, and "no one has taken that from him yet."

"Really impressed with Iona Pritchard, really like David Foote. We have our fullback in Zed (Mendenhall), and then Jamaal Williams looks really good, as a freshman. And then, Paul Lasike. I like our running backs."

While all of the aforementioned backs have taken their turn making some nice no-contact plays through two days, Williams showed a notable burst of speed on a catch-and-run hookup with Ammon Olsen on Friday afternoon. If he can earn time on the field in 2012, he could be fun to watch.

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Another freshman has looked good early in camp, and that's wide receiver Dylan Collie, who, while yet to get regular rotation reps, has made an impression on the head coach.

I asked Bronco what Collie can do to "open some eyes" in camp, and the coach said "he already has...in special teams, in catching balls, in his confidence."

"He doesn't believe or play like he's a freshman," said Mendenhall. "He already has a good understanding of the playbook, he runs good routes. He catches the ball and he knows what to do. That's the best way to earn trust."

The most trustworthy players often end up in the kickoff and punt return personnel groupings, and Collie has been in that mix through the first two days of camp, albeit with limited special teams work being done.

Collie has been in a group including Cody Hoffman, JD Falslev, Dallin Cutler, Adam Hine, Jordan Johnson and Mike Hague.

Mendenhall said identifying returners is not a huge camp priority: "By the time fall camp is over, certainly. We don't feel any pressure to have the 'ones' named until going into Washington State...it will probably happen before then, but that would be a deadline."

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With players like Hoffman and Sampson absent, and other players like Preston Hadley, Cameron Comer and Richard Wilson missing most of practice on Friday, the Day 1 depth chart saw multiple alterations on Day 2.

Most notably, Sampson's vacancy at starting free safety was filled by Mike Hague, with Hague backed up by Craig Bills, who Thursday was running behind Daniel Sorensen at Kat. Freshman Matt Hadley ran with the twos at Kat on Friday. Preston Hadley's spot at no. 1 boundary corner was filled by Skye PoVey, although Hadley did join practice late and got most of his reps in with the twos.

DeQuan Everett played backup field corner Friday, after taking his snaps at boundary corner on Thursday. Juco transfer Adam Hogan, who was a field corner second-stringer on Day 1, played behind Everett on Friday.

Projected front-liners Ian Dulan (neck soreness) and Russell Tialavea (ankle sprain) have not been taking reps, allowing players like defensive end Michael Doman to move up and get second-team snaps. Return missionary Remington Peck has gotten a similar amount of work with the second team at defensive end, with Mike Muehlmann filling the starter's role at right end (Manumaleuna and Fuga are locking down the staring left end and nose tackle positions).

With Stringham injured, Ryan Freeman occupied the no. 1 right guard spot on Friday. Houston Reynolds bounced back from shin soreness to back up Blair Tushaus at center.

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Clearing out the notebook:

OL Famika Anae got an early shower after a brief on-field scuffle; his spot as the no. 2 left guard was taken by Terrance Alletto.

The number of outdoor ice-plunge tubs was upped from three on Thursday, to six on Friday. Bronco says ice baths have been used in the past, but back in the indoor training arena and in limited numbers, not as the current team-wide regimen.

TE Richard Wilson made a couple of grabs in the 11-on-11 session, but lost his footing in open field on a catch-and-run. He plays with a brace on his surgically-repaired knee, and it may be a while before he feels totally comfortable doing everything he used to do. Hill has a real good zip on the ball, by the way.

Faces in the crowd (and on the field): BYU AD Tom Holmoe and Senior Associate AD Brian Santiago.

Saturday morning's practice is scheduled to start at 10:20 on he outdoor practice fields. All practices are closed to the public, with the exception of next Thursday's stadium scrimmage.

I'll be on KSL Newsradio's "Cougar Sports Saturday" shortly after practice ends tomorrow, and again later in the afternoon. Be sure to tune in from noon to 6:00pm every Saturday.

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Greg Wrubell

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