Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes
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(Images: BYU Photos)
Under cloudless skies and escalating temperatures, it was a typical "dog days" kind of day today--a 16-period practice (open to media), to be followed by a shorter practice (closed to media) in the afternoon.
Starting nose tackle Russell Tialavea (shoulder) missed practice for the second time in three days, while running back Mike Hague (hamstring tightness) joined the list of the walking wounded. Fellow back Bryan Kariya (ankle) remained out, and has not practiced since last Saturday's scrimmage--meaning the top two projected "true" fullbacks (Manase Tonga and Kariya) remain out of the mix.
Bronco Mendenhall says Tialavea's slighter build (loss of 35-40 pounds from his previous playing weight) has diminished his strength and has led to more "wear and tear" against the big bodies on the other side of the line.
While Robbie Buckner got in some drills and was the most active he'd been since returning from his hamstring injury, he eventually felt it tighten up and missed the last part of practice. At the other corner, Brandon Bradley also missed much of the latter part of practice with knee soreness, and Bronco says it could be "ongoing for the entire season."
In their absence, Brian Logan (field) and Lee Aguirre (boundary) were the de facto first stringers, and Bronco acknowledged the possibility that those two players may be the starters when the season opens in Arlington.
After getting off to a tremendous start to camp, Buckner's hamstring issues have really set him back, and now that he's nursing that tender hamstring after today's tightness, at the same time Logan is elevating his play, the field corner spot may indeed change hands in the next two weeks--stay tuned.
At the boundary, it seems that Bradley's early camp confidence has suffered a setback with the return of his knee soreness, and Aguirre is ready to claim that spot if Bradley's progress should be hampered. It appears evident that Bronco is already planning on multiple players seeing reps at that spot this season, since he noted the pervasive nature of Bradley's ailment.
LB Brandon Ogletree (hip flexor) returned to practice after two days away, as did fellow LB Jordan Atkinson (groin). Bronco says would-be starting BLB Terrance Hooks could be back on the field by Monday. WR Mitch Mathews was back after almost a week away with a sprained ankle, and got some snaps in.
Today's "live" (11-on-11) segments of practice featured third-down situations, then the typical "Team" session to conclude practice.
Max Hall led three offensive series in "Team," and they went as follows:
#1: after a long YAC run by J.J. DiLuigi, the drive bogged down following back-to-back whistle sacks, and Mitch Payne missed a roughly 45-yard field goal (wide right).
#2: the drive Bronco called the "cleanest" first-string series of camp featured crisp completions to Pitta, Chambers, George, George again, and after a DLuigi run, an amazing catch by Dennis Pitta for a 15-yard touchdown. Reminiscent of his game-winner last year at Colorado State, Pitta went up in the air at the goal line and in the midst of three defenders (Pendleton, Johnson and Ogletree), made the catch while getting hit by all three simultaneously. Bronco noted it was "too much contact," but it was a simply spectacular play by Pitta.
#3: three-and-out, as Corby Eason broke up a third-down pass intended for O'Neill Chambers.
The other two series were manned by Brenden Gaskins and Riley Nelson, and both ended in punts.
Once again, Harvey Unga was kept out of all "live" action. Say this for Unga: he'll be well-rested for the Sooners.
With Unga out and the fullbacks down in depth, today's #1 backfield consisted of DiLuigi and Malosi Te'o.
After watching left tackle Braden Hansen take a handful of snaps at backup left guard today, I asked Bronco about what he plans to do with essentially three starting tackles when Matt Reynolds returns. Could one of them (Hansen, ostensibly) remain a starter, but at guard instead of tackle? Bronco's answer was that would be unlikely; rather, he sees the three tackles (Hansen, M. Reynolds, N. Alletto) playing the two tackle spots--keeping "fresh bodies" on the ends.
Clearly, walk-on Marco Thorson continues to keep a steady grip on the starting left guard position, as he has since camp began.
See the depth chart below for the latest moving and shaking up front.
Today's Manase Tonga update: (cue the crickets...)
Just a single post-practice interview today, with Bronco Mendenhall--look for it in the "Cougar Cuts" box to the upper right.
The team practiced in "shells" (helmets and shorts) this morning. Tomorrow's 10:00am practice is open to the public--the final open practice of camp. Plans are for the second scrimmage of camp to be held this Saturday at the stadium, and for it be longer than last weekend's 55-play exercise.
Take Bronco's Tuesday explanation at face value, but Shiloah Te'o remains a linebacker, for all intents and purposes. He participates in all drills with the linebackers, and today was backing up Shawn Doman at BLB.
True freshman Richard Wilson is coming along nicely at strongside linebacker. He is essentially a third-stringer at SLB, but has been the primary backup when either Pendleton or Nelson are absent, or when Nelson has switched to the weakside. He even sees some situational first-team snaps, as happened today for a brief time.
With Jordan Atkinson's return, he re-assumed his spot as the #2 WLB, and took a few first-team snaps, after starter Coleby Clawson exited a for a handful of plays.
Lots of kickoff return work today; return pairings were nothing out of the ordinary:
Now...today's depth chart:
(No more than three-deep unless otherwise noted. Players moving up into or within the two-deep up from the day before are noted in bold.)
Depth Chart, Day 10:
LT: (Matt Reynolds--injured) Braden Hansen, Terrence Alletto
LG: Marco Thorson, Ryan Freeman or Braden Hansen
C: R.J. Willing, Fono Vakalhahi or Houston Reynolds
RG: Terence Brown, Houston Reynolds or Tui Crichton
RT: Nick Alletto, Ryan Mulitalo
TE: Dennis Pitta, Andrew George, Braden Brown
WR (X): O'Neill Chambers, Spencer Hafoka, Rhen Brown or Cody Hoffman or Mitch Mathews
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, Tevita Hola or Romney Fuga
RE: Jan Jorgensen, Vic So'oto, Matt Peterson
SLB: Jordan Pendleton, Grant Nelson, Richard Wilson
MLB: Matt Bauman, Brandon Ogletree, Shane Hunter
BLB: (Terrance Hooks--out, injury) Shawn Doman, Shiloah Te'o or Jeff Bell
WLB: Coleby Clawson, Jordan Atkinson, Masi Tuitama
FC: (Robbie Buckner--injured) or Brian Logan, Corby Eason
BC: Brandon Bradley or Lee Aguirre, Landon Jaussi
Kat: Andrew Rich, Jray Galea'i or Shiloah Te'o
Free: Scott Johnson, Craig Bills, Steven Thomas
The "Bronco Mendenhall Show" debuts two weeks from tonight and once again, the shows will be "live, on location" from one of the four Utah County Ken Garff dealers.
See the show schedule on this page for a listing of locations.
More details later about the bonus goodies we'll have at each and every show...
Hoops note: BYU's Jonathan Tavernari played five scoreless minutes in Brazil's 91-76 exhibition win over Argentina Tuesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Brazil takes on Carlos Arroyo and the host country this evening, before facing Tyler Kepkay and Canada on Thursday.