Camp Cougar, Day 15

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A few early morning raindrops had the Cougars "better safe than sorry," moving their 18-period "shells" practice indoors today. Despite weather that held off for the duration of the session, the players stayed inside the IPF for their final camp practice ahead of Wednesday's scheduled scrimmage.

Following Wednesday's exercise at the stadium, Thursday's "lift" day will lead into Friday's "Oklahoma practice #1," which will include scout team players for the first time.


Stop me if you've heard this one before, but another potential starter went down and did not return to practice, as boundary corner Lee Aguirre collided with WR Luke Ashworth in a "skelly" drill and stayed down, before being helped to the sidelines. This was after field corner Brian Logan left practice with an ankle he tweaked in the daily "pursuit" drill. He later returned to the IPF (with an idle CB Corby Eason--see below), but did not practice further.

Bronco says Aguirre hurt his elbow--akin to a "funny bone" strike, but when strength did not return to the arm, he was kept out; doesn't sound serious. In his place, former wide receiver and previous third-stringer Landon Jaussi ran with the "ones" at BC.

At field corner, without Logan and Eason (and of course Buckner), they were down field corners after Garrett Nicholson, so safety Blake Morgan moved over to the corner. At boundary (minus Bradley and Aguirre), Jaussi's backup was true freshman Trevor Bateman. Basically, of the eight corners in camp, there were only three available for most of the day.


Otherwise, a handful of other players were held out today: RB Harvey Unga (hamstring), FS Scott Johnson (concussion), CB Corby Eason (knee tendinitis) and WR McKay Jacobson (sick).

Among previously injured players, LB Terrance Hooks and CBs Brandon Bradley and Robbie Buckner continue to be eased back into activity, with Hooks actually taking part in live "Team" work at the end of practice--an encouraging sign, to be certain.

Unga came into the IPF for the last half-hour or so (in uniform, but in athletic shoes and not cleats). Bronco reiterated today that Unga "will be ready for Oklahoma" and "looked good."


While the injury issue has been thoroughly noted and debated, I had a brief conversation with head trainer Kevin Morris, in which he was relaxed and more importantly, confident that injured players would be well for Oklahoma. Morris noted that while player absences may appear troubling, their absence is part of the healing process, as the training and medical staff use caution in plotting timetables for a return to action.


Today's first 11-on-11 action featured two overtime series. Max Hall and Riley Nelson both took the offense into first-and-goal situations, but both times the "O" settled for field goal attempts. Mitch Payne missed from 25 yards, and made from 22 yards.


With Unga out and J.J. DiLuigi still hobbled (shoulder), the #1 starting backfield was comprised of Manase Tonga and Brian Kariya, while the #2 backs were Mike Hague and Tucker Lamb. Peni Maka'afi returned today, and had a nice pass reception with the second-teamers.

Tonga has distinguished himself with some very nice catches out of the backfield this week, and made a couple of nifty grabs today. I also thought Kariya in particular was very good today, showing a lot of burst after missing almost a week with a bum ankle.


Bronco says Kariya is the clear fourth back in the "top four" out of the backfield; Unga, Tonga and DiLuigi completing the foursome.


Without an under-the-weather Jacobson, Brett Thompspon ran second to Luke Ashworth at "Z" today. Bronco confirms that Thompson has emerged as the de facto fifth wideout, after Jacobson, Chambers, Ashworth and Hafoka. The coach notes that veteran B.J. Peterson might have an edge on Thompson relative to special teams participation, but in terms of "next receiver in," Thompson appears to be next in line after the top four. By my estimation, Rhen Brown would be sixth.


Between the overtime and "Team" sessions, five field goals were attempted:

Payne 25 (no good; wide left)

Payne 22 (good)

Payne 37 (good)

Payne 44 (no good; wide left)

Stephenson 44 (no good; blocked by Doman)


The field goal attempts meant the offense was kept out of the offense in its five "live" series today--two in overtime, and three in "Team."

In the first series of "Team," Max Hall and the first-team offense moved smartly in scoring territory, but the drive ended after Shawn Doman hurried Hall into an underthrown pass that a diving O'Neill Chambers almost came up with in the end zone.

Riley Nelson's one series included a pair of first downs, but fizzled after a handful of short runs, including a Nelson scramble on third-and-long.

Hall's final series had 42 yards worth of back-to-back-to-back completions to a busy Luke Ashworth, but a Doman/Tialavea whistle sack backed the offense up, and a Chambers drop was followed by a diving effort from Ashworth that fell incomplete in the end zone.


For the first time in an number of days, we saw a little experimental mixing and matching with the first-string offensive line.

After a steady diet of Hansen-Thorson-Willing-B. Brown-N. Alletto (L to R), we saw Willing substitute for Hansen at left tackle, Hansen substitute for Thorson at left guard, and Thorson substitute for Willing at center, as OL Coach Mark Weber cross-trains to develop depth.


Speaking of which, the depth chart today was a bit of a mess with all of the injuries and shifting, so refer to Day 14's chart for the latest two-deep.

I will note, however, that with Jordan Atkinson a little banged up, Grant Nelson took his spot at #2 WLB, with Jameson Frazier (and not Richard Wilson) moving to to #2 SLB. Terrance Hooks returned at #2 BLB in "Team," behind Shawn Doman. Brandon Ogletree was back at second-string MLB today.


Today's post-practice interviews are with Bronco and DL Coach Steve Kaufusi--check out their comments by clicking the links in the "Cougar Cuts" box to the upper right.


As Bronco spells out, Wednesday morning's scrimmage will work on special teams situations, overtime, goal line, two-minute, etc.--things that the team needs to "touch up."


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