Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
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According to head coach Bronco Mendenhall, camp has reached its "grind" phase, as the Cougars prepare for a second final stadium scrimmage on Thursday.
"Players and coaches get tired of each other, which was manifest yesterday," said Mendenhall after practice. "Then there's a 'reset point' which happened today, then there will be a building and in about another week it will happen again."
"Then we'll finally get to play an opponent."
You can hear Mendenhall's post-practice media session, as well as an interview with wide receivers coach Ben Cahoon in "Cougar Cuts," left. You will also get Jason Shepherd's post-practice conversations with WR Mitch Mathews and graduate assistant coach Jason Kaufusi.
The practice-ending 11-on-11 session was highlighted by Riley Nelson going deep to WR Alex Kuresa for a 60-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Nelson finished 3-for-4 for 70 yards, while James Lark was 0-for-2 with an interception (Mike Hague) and Taysom Hill went 3-for-4 for 68 yards, including a 35-yard TD toss to Brett Thompson.
Kuresa has emerged as a player to watch, since his conversion from QB to WR in the days preceding the start of camp.
In addition to his deployment as a receiver, Kuresa is being used on special teams as both a coverage team member and backup returner. Mendenhall says as a wideout, Kuresa is "doing a nice job--he won't back down, and he has a good understanding of the game. His position and route mastery has a way to go, but he kind of makes up for it with grit; he's a competitor."
Cahoon says of Kuresa that "he's still not a polished receiver yet, but his athleticism is allowing him to make plays, and he's fun to watch."
Some new injury notes...
Offensive lineman Solomone Kafu suffered a broken bone in his hand and will have surgery to affix a plate tomorrow. He is expected out for a couple of weeks, after which time he will practice with his right hand in a cast/club. Kafu has spent all of camp in the two-deep, with most of his reps coming with the first team, at LG (in place of Braden Hansen when he was on the second team) and LT (Ryker Mathews, when he was out with a sore neck). Hansen is now with the "ones," and Mathews is back at left tackle, but Kafu's absence will mean more shuffling on the O-line.
Projected starting defensive end Ian Dulan has now missed a week of practices with a sore back. He received an injection and trainers are confident of his return to wellness.
RB Jamaal Williams sprained an ankle at practice on Tuesday; he was walking around in non-football shoes with the ankle wrapped, and is listed as day-to-day.
The first-string offensive line today consisted of Mathews, Hansen, Reynolds, Tushaus and Brown, from left to right. This was the first day with Reynolds getting the no. 1 reps at center; Mendenhall said "I don't think anything is permanent at this point, but it's nice to see different combinations of guys."
"The luxury we're having right now is competition at a lot different places, and that has helped our consistency in practice. If a player has an off-day or doesn't want to work on a particular day, someone goes by him."
Wide receiver depth appears to be a potential strong suit with this year's team, but WR coach Ben Cahoon says after the "Big 3" of Cody Hoffman, Ross Apo and JD Falslev, it's a battle among players seeking to see the field in 2012.
Asked who has solidified a playing spot after the top trio, Cahoon said "no one."
"We still have some question marks," says Cahoon. "We're still hoping for guys to step up and prove they've got playmaking ability on a consistent basis, and there are still some question marks for depth."
Cahoon identified Mitch Mathews as someone who "has definitely got all the physical tools, but he's not healthy. He's going to have to get healthy and then prove he can stay healthy."
(Mathews sat out practice today with a sore clavicle; Mendenhall said a CT scan of the injury showed no long-term concerns)
Of other receivers in the mix for playing time, Cahoon said "Dylan Collie has shown some greatness, as has Alex Kuresa. The other guys are working hard and making plays, but just not that at the consistent level that we're looking for."
Mendenhall says Thursday morning's scrimmage "will be about like the first one," relative to number of plays (around 80) and number of projected starters who will see a lot of reps (not many). "You'll see about the same people as you saw in the first one," said Mendenhall.
The coach says team captains will be picked sometime between the end of this week and the middle of next week, "no later than the last practice before we break into Washington State (preparation)."