Happy Monday, everyone.
The Cougars are back at it this morning, practicing from 10:20 a.m. until about 12:30 p.m at the outdoor practice field. This being the fourth practice of preseason camp, NCAA rules allow teams to wear helmets and shoulder pads.
However, coach Bronco Mendenhall said Saturday that the Cougars will probably just stick to helmets and shorts (no shells) until Tuesday, when they can wear full pads.
Hope you were able to catch my article on the tight end situation in Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune. With the Olympics going on, space for other news is tight in the sports section, so I wasn't able to fully include what offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, tights ends coach Lance Reynolds, tight end Austin Holt and Mendenhall had to say about the position this year.
Doman on the importance of getting the tight end back into the offense this year:
"We need to get our tight end position to perform like it needs to. So we are working on it. We have got a few injuries that are kind of slowing us down.
Devin's injury from last year has been handicapping him along the way [he broke his hand on Saturday, and will be out 3-5 weeks]. Then Richard [Wilson] and Austin [Holt[ with their knees, so it is going to be an interesting battle.
Someone is going to have to stay healthy, and I don't know that any one of them has completely risen to be the guy.
So the next week or two, 10 days, I would say that's the biggest question mark we have. "
Doman on why they weren't productive at tight end position last two years:
"Part of it was scheme; part of it was personnel. So I would say it is half and half issue that we were dealing with last year. We just couldn't get that position to be as productive as we wanted.
I think we overshot the mark schematically early, and then they got hurt. So a combination of those is what ailed us, or caused us to not be as good.
But this year, the scheme provides a ton of catches for those guys. But we're not pitching and catching like we should. The tight end-quarterback chemistry is not there right now. We got to get that going."
Doman on whether he's happy with offense the first three days:
"Well, don't get me wrong. I am not real happy. I am pleased with who is out here. I am pleased with the scheme, I am pleased with the identity. I am not pleased with the execution, but I guess that's where you should be at this point in fall camp. But I certainly believe we have all the right components to be great. Now we have got to execute it."
Mendenhall on how Marcus Mathews has gained 30 pounds:
"It is great. There were a lot of players that were very dedicated over the summer, and it showed in how strong they are, how fast they are, how conditioned they are, and if they got bigger, while they didn't gain body fat. So Marcus is one of those cases where he gained a bunch of lean mass with no fat."
On the tight end situation. and whether it is like starting over:
"I don't think it will be like that. Marcus is very clear, kind of what his strengths are. Austin Holt is kinda clear, what his strengths are. So we know a lot more, what guys are capable of. To say that more than one won't play [is wrong]. A lot of them will be. But we just have a better idea what their roles will be."
Lance Reynolds on how the tight ends are looking this year:
"I think we are better as a group and individually this year. We made progress athletically, and understanding the offense. I think they are considerably ahead of where they were a year ago."
Reynolds on whether the tight ends are all recovered and good to go:
"There was some concern with the health with Richard and Austin and Devin [before the hand injury]. But they all appear to be fine. They are all running around better than I thought they would be at this point. So we will see how that continues to unfold, and how their confidence is when they put the pads on. That's a good question still."
Reynolds on whether they will use Marcus Mathews inside now that he's heavier:
"Right now, it looks pretty good. But we haven't had pads on yet. Right now, it looks good. He's more physical and he's spent some time as an attached tight end.
We are hoping, and everything appears to where that will be possible. But you are talking about things that have to be weighed this fall, and that we will have to make judgements on."
Reynolds on whether it is like starting over with the tight ends because so many missed spring camp:
"You hate to dog somebody because they got hurt. You have to be somewhat fair about it. But we got a lot of guys who have won a lot of games, and started a lot of games, and have had playing time. So we've got some guys. The only real thing we can guarantee anybody is that we are going to play the best guys that we can. So it is up to them to be the best players they can be."
On whether Marcus Mathews can play both the flex and the attached tight end positions:
"That's the goal. Right now, I am not going to make that statement. We will wait and see. But we are attempting to do that, yeah."
Austin Holt on wearing a knee brace:
"It's going to be my companion at least through this year. Then next year, they said I should be OK without it."
Holt on how his knee is doing:
'It's 100 percent healed. I got cleared back the first of May to do everything. Then we got it checked the week before fall camp started, and everything was back to normal. So it's good."
Holt on how his speed and agility is coming back:
"That's all coming back slowly. I had to pretty much take six months off from doing that stuff until May or June. But it is coming back. It is just a matter of getting the legs back and getting back in football shape, since I missed all spring."
Holt on whether he can play the flex spot:
"I didn't do a lot of it last year. I was more in-line when we did our pro-style stuff last year and with Jake Heaps' here.
Coach this year said, 'I don't care, go out there and do some flex stuff. Marcus and I are are completely rotating back and forth. So Marcus will start with the ones in team yesterday, and then I started today. We just go back and forth. He doesn't care, coach Reynolds."
On whether it is frustrating not knowing if he will be the starter or not:
"Oh, I don't know. It has been like this for two years, so we don't know anything different. But like I say, I have complete faith in our coaches, coach Doman and coach Reynolds. Whatever happens, happens. I think it will work out the way it is supposed to."
On whether the production will improve from tight end position:
"I definitely think so. I was talking with Riley the other day. You don't think of Jonny Harline, Dan Coats, Dennis Pitta before their junior year. That's kind of where we are at, heading into that year.
"We do have a lot of starts. I started, what, 10 or 11 games last year. I started two my freshman year. Marcus started some his first year. Like I said, we've got good experience this year."