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The return of an injured offensive lineman and a stingy "D" were items of note as the second full week of camp opened under sunny skies and pleasantly cooler than normal temperatures.
The first session of a two-session workday consisted of 16 periods, to be followed by a shorter, 11-period practice this afternoon (afternoon practices, except those open to the public, are closed to the press). The Cougars went in "shells" this morning-—helmets and shoulder pads, with shorts.
Offensive lineman Houston Reynolds returned to work after a week away with a quad strain. He saw his snaps this morning as the second-string center. Brother Matt Reynolds had his left arm in a sling (his left hand in a cast), but was dressed out (minus pads) and with his O-line teammates.
The defense had a good day today, keeping the offense out of the end zone on all four "blue zone" series from the 20-yard line (two field goals were good, one was blocked, and one was wide left).
In seven "Team" series, the offense was held to two scores--touchdown throws from Riley Nelson to Braden Brown on series #4, and from Max Hall to a wide--open Andrew George on a missed assignment in series #7.
The "Team" portion of practice also included Max Hall's first two interceptions of camp. On series #1, he was intercepted by safety Craig Bills, and on series #3 (Max's next series), third/fourth-string MLB Jared Richardson made an impressive one-handed reach-out to pick Hall and "take it to the house" on a pick six.
Nelson's drive was the longest sustained effort in the practice-closing period of practice, but whereas other other quarterbacks are seeing the play whistled dead when any white shirts get near, Bronco kept the whistle in the pocket, allowing Riley to escape would-be sacks and make plays--and make plays he did.
Nelson is gaining confidence as camp progresses, and is gaining ground in the backup quarterback competition.
While the offensive line was boosted by the return of Houston Reynolds today, there were a handful of other "precautionary" absences--none of which should be cause for concern, according to Bronco Mendenhall.
Starting NT Russell Tialavea (shoulder) sat out today, as did second-string MLB Brandon Ogletgree (hip flexor) and FB Bryan Kariya (ankle). All three were dinged in last Saturday's scrimmage.
Players remaining out with previous injuries were LB Terrance Hooks (hamstring), CB Robbie Buckner (hamstring), OL Matt Reynolds (hand), WLB Jordan Atkinson (groin), and WR Mitch Mathews (ankle).
Bronco noted that Buckner could return as soon as tomorrow, and when he does, he will step back in as the #1 field corner. However, Brian Logan ran with the ones today, and has apparently passed up Corby Eason on the field side, for the time being. So, the corner two-deep is looking more like Buckner and Logan at field; Bradley and Aguirre at boundary.
In Atkinson's absence, Grant Nelson today moved from strong to weak side linebacker, allowing Richard Wilson to get second-team reps at SLB.
With Ogletree out, Shane Hunter got second-string snaps at MLB.
Russell Tialavea's absence meant Romney Fuga got first-team snaps at NT, with Tevita Hola and Jordan Richardson (Jared's brother) backing up.
The defense was very upbeat about its performance in the "blue zone" today. While I had a tough time picking out the player who got a hand on the first field goal attempt, I was told Linebacker Jordan Pendleton got the block of Mitch Payne's 28-yard kick.
While today's "live" portions of practice were to be "thuds" and not full tackle, Tevita Hola got his money's worth, taking FB Peni Maka'afi to the ground on a run play. Tough to blame the defenders today--they were amped up.
The Cougars went through some kickoff and punt return work. The return candidates remain the same as they have been, but there is some experimenting going on with "wall" personnel (in front of the punter). Today's main combo featured Brett Denney, Vic So'oto and Matt Putnam.
Speaking of Denney, he and Bronco Mendenhall are today's post-practice interviewees. You can hear them by clicking on their audio links in the "Cougar Cuts" box to the upper right.
Denney makes reference to the need to protect Max Hall in live settings, and said "I don't know what happened with (Max) today," since Hall did take a knock on his throwing hand early. Word is a finger popped out, but was put back in place, and Hall played the remainder of the "Team" portion, throwing the TD pass to George after the minor mishap.
Still no word on Manase Tonga--it was possible that today would be the day he appeared before an academic committee. If and when BYU knows something official, the school will issue a release. Assuming he were to be immediately eligible, camp would be two weeks old before he would be in full pads.
LB Terrance Hooks was in pads and shorts and walking around after practice, and if the previous timetable holds, could be back by the start of next week.
RB Harvey Unga was once again kept out of the "Team" portion of practice, allowing J.J. DiLuigi to take first-team snaps.
Among back-up ball carriers, Mike Hague looked particularly jumpy (in a good way) today.
Although injuries have led to numerous absences, the depth chart is in sharper focus after a week of camp, and here's what I have after eight days.
Unless competition for a third (or fourth) spot prevents a clear designation (Player A "or" Player B), I will limit the depth chart to no more than three players at each position.
(players moving up within the two-deep up from the day before are noted in bold.)
Depth Chart, Day 8:
LT: (Matt Reynolds--injured) Braden Hansen, Terrence Alletto
LG: Marco Thorson (also center), Ryan Freeman (also center)
C: R.J. Willing, Houston Reynolds (also guard)
RG: Terence Brown, Tui Crichton
RT: Nick Alletto, Fono Vakalahi
TE: Dennis Pitta, Andrew George, Braden Brown
WR (X): O'Neill Chambers, Spencer Hafoka, Rhen Brown or Cody Hoffman, (Mitch Mathews-injured)
WR (Z): McKay Jacobson, Luke Ashworth, B.J. Peterson or J.D. Falslev or Brett Thompson
WR Notes: Outside receivers are to be able to play both X and Z. While the pattern run will depend on formation and play call, "X" receivers line up left, while "Z" receivers line up right. For example, a receiver could line up as an "X," but then motion could change formation strength and require the "X" to run the "Z" pattern, and vice versa. Basically, however, "X" lines up left and "Z" lines up right.
WR (H): Matt Marshall, Stephen Covey, Parker Mangum
TB: Harvey Unga, J.J. DiLuigi, Malosi Te'o or Mike Hague
FB: (note: Manase Tonga assumes the #1 spot if and when he arrives) Bryan Kariya, Braden Brown (also TE), Anthony Heimuli or Mike Hague
QB: Max Hall, Brenden Gaskins, Riley Nelson
LE: Brett Denney, Matt Putnam, Steven Fisher
NT: Russell Tialavea, Romney Fuga, Tevita Hola
RE: Jan Jorgensen, Vic So'oto, Remington Peck
SLB: Jordan Pendleton, Grant Nelson or Richard Wilson, Jameson Frazier
MLB: Matt Bauman, Brandon Ogletree, Shane Hunter
BLB: (Terrance Hooks--out, injury) Shawn Doman, Jeff Bell, Dan Van Sweden or Blake McKenzie
WLB: Coleby Clawson, (Jordan Atkinson--injured) or Grant Nelson, Chase Hansen
FC: (Robbie Buckner--injured), Brian Logan, Corby Eason
BC: Brandon Bradley, Lee Aguirre, Trevor Bateman
Kat: Andrew Rich, Shiloah Te'o, Jray Galea'i
Free: Scott Johnson, Craig Bills, Steven Thomas
BYU Basketball assistant coach John Wardenburg was one of the "faces in the crowd" today.
BYU hoopster Charles Abouo's Cote d'Ivoire national team ended up as the runner-up in FIBA's just-completed African Basketball Championship, culminating a stunning to a top three finish and the country's first World Championship qualification in 24 years.