The Cougars are on track. Those were coach Bronco Mendenhall's sentiments after preseason camp practice session No. 11 concluded on Saturday. The Cougars worked out in helmets and shoulder pads only on Day 9, and Mendenhall said it will likely stay that way the rest of camp. The only times they will completely pad up will be for scrimmages, he said.
Speaking of which, Mendenhall said the scrimmage next week will be on Thursday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Although quarterback Riley Nelson acknowledged he was tired and worn out after the practice, Mendenhall said he liked the energy during the workout and said the Cougars are into their dog days of camp.
"No. I like it. I don't think we have hit that yet," Mendenhall said. "We are working and improving each day. Small things: position mastery. The effort is consistent, so I think we are actually gaining momentum."
Said Nelson: "You have to conserve your energy where you can conserve it. So forgive me for not having as many quips as normal. I don't know. Let's just say I am grateful for the Sabbath [tomorrow]."
Those hoping to see the depth chart clarified went away disappointed on Saturday. Maybe on Monday, Mendenhall said.
"Not ready to quite announce everything yet. Maybe going into next week I could share a few things. But still a few discussions to be had, so maybe starting Monday I could tell you where we might be going into Week Two and Half, I guess it would be," he said.
At least a dozen players missed practice Saturday due to a variety of ailments and reasons, but Mendenhall said nothing is serious (aside from TE Devin Mahina's broken hand) and he expects everyone back shortly. Another TE, Marcus Mathews, missed practice for the fourth-straight day because he is still battling an illness.
"It is pretty severe, but he will be fine," Mendenhall said.
"I think everybody is in good shape as of today, which is good. [It is a] delicate balance to try to get enough work physically without getting guys hurt. But I think we are right on for right now," the coach said.
Players other than Mathews and Mahina who are expected to contribute, who missed practice, and the reason, if known:
Center Houston Reynolds (leg soreness; shins), OL Ryker Mathews (neck soreness), OL Braden Brown (ankle sprain), OL Brock Stringham (ankle sprain), OL Walter Kahaiali'i (knee strain), WR Dallin Cutler (hamstring), LB Brandon Ogletree (unknown), DL Tui Crichton (bruised leg), DL Romney Fuga (unknown), DL Ian Dulan (back pain).
The Cougars again worked on their red-zone execution in the 11-on-11 team session, just as they did on Friday.
"Offensive initiative," Mendenhall said. "They didn't think they were getting enough work there. They wanted some more volume. Really, I let the situational work come from our offensive coaches. I don't mandate that. And that always is the priority where they think our offense will need the most work, so we haven't done [much else], only one two-minute situation. So blue zone, we will evaluate today and see if we are close to where we want to be."
Nelson was 6-for-7 in the scrimmage (tight end Kaneakua Friel dropped a pass for the only blemish), with three touchdown passes. Cody Hoffman, Mitch Mathews and Kurt Henderson had the TD grabs, all between 20 and 12 yards.
Mike Alisa had a touchdown run (around 11 yards), but also had the first fumble of camp -- recovered by Preston Hadley.
Henderson got into it a bit with safety Craig Bills, before coaches broke it up.
Walk-on DB Matt Hadley had a nice pass breakup in the back of the end zone.
A few more comments from Mendenhall on selected position groups, players:
On the offensive line: "They are trimmer, and they are more fit, and there are more of them. So not only more players, but more depth. So it is good."
On Kyle Van Noy waiting until Aug. 14 to be cleared to play: "He's ready, and he wants to play, and he's completely prepared. So I am not sure he would have to practice. But as we both know, that won't happen."
On kicker Justin Sorensen: "Progressing. Same as a day or two ago. We expect him to play the first game."
On whether he's happy with where team is at: "Yeah. Through Day No. 9, I feel like we are on track."
A BYU commit and a potential BYU commit from the class of 2013 were at practice Saturday. Lineman JonRyheem Peoples of Rigby, Idaho, was there with his father; Peoples committed to the Cougars a few months ago.
Running back Darrin Laufasa of Bothell, Wash., was also there with his father. Laufasa has offers from Wyoming, Idaho and Portland State and was hoping for an offer from BYU.
If he gets an offer this weekend, don't be surprised to see Laufasa commit early next week to BYU.
* Kyle Van Noy's mother attended the practice, along with the mother of freshman running back Jamaal Williams.