The Cougars put on full pads today for the first time at training camp, and practiced in front of about 900 folks at the outdoor practice facility. They scrimmaged a bit at the end of practice and backup quarterback Christian Stewart showed well, by most accounts.
Players and coaches did not meet with the media afterwards for interviews and the like, but coach Bronco Mendenhall said Tuesday that the plan is to have just one full scrimmage the entire camp. It will be held Friday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"If there is only one format that is scrimmage only, that is what I am referring to, there might be a practice that looks just like today, except the team segment might be live. And we get all the rest of the work that we need," Mendenhall said Tuesday. "With this team, and the number of players and still some of the things we need to figure out, scrimmage is part of it, and practice is part of it. So there might just be only one major scrimmage."
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae said Tuesday that scrimmaging will be kept to a minimum this camp, despite the fact that the Cougars probably have more healthy offensive linemen at a camp — spring or fall — than in his tenure at the school.
"We are not going to scrimmage, maybe but one time," Anae said. "So right now the focus on offense is bringing in our newcomers up to speed with what we are doing. And the guys that are here since spring are looking good."
Fans may have noticed Wednesday that the Cougars’ helmets were all white, and did not include the oval Y logo on their sides.
Mendenhall said he is not punishing his players, like Texas coach Charlie Strong is by taking the longhorn logo off Texas helmets until the players earn them back.
Simply, Mendenhall said Tuesday he just wants a clean start.
"It was really a clean slate [as a reason]," he said. "There are a lot of different changes in college football right now, and with a new role for myself as the head coach, and really just a different era of college football, I see a lot of things almost starting over … So it was more symbolic as a clean slate than [having to] earn them back … It is certainly not a punishment. It is a progression."
Here are a few more comments from Mendenhall from Tuesday’s availability. The next interview session is Thursday after the 10 a.m. practice in Provo.
Mendenhall on the defensive secondary at this point in camp:
"There are a lot of good things. Dallin Leavitt, his development is coming along nicely. So I like what he is doing. Craig Bills, very steady. Skye PoVey can play either boundary corner, or at the safety spot. Chris Badger has actually been very strong so far in camp. Then Harvey Jackson. So, our safety spots I like.
We know we have Jordan [Johnson] and Rob [Daniel] at the corner spots, which, that’s a fantastic thing. I like the development a lot of Kai Nacua, Michael Shelton. So those are two young players, with Jordan Preator. So I would say the up and comers kind of include that group. Then you throw Michael Shelton into that group, there’s a little bit more maturity, a little bit more speed and athleticism where he is not a veteran and he is not a newcomer. That kind of links them together. "
Mendenhall on how his role is evolving now that Nick Howell calls the defensive plays:
"I like it. I am having fun. I get to coach the nose tackles for about 10 minutes a day, so I am getting my coaching fix at least on a position group basis. Then it is fun to be able to address whatever I see offensively, defensively or special teams wise. I am focusing more on relationships with the players, maybe than just the head coaching responsibilities. I actually had them to my house, which might have been shocking. So yeah, we had a social engagement at my house."
Mendenhall on how rapidly Harvey Langi is progressing at ILB:
"Very rapidly. From where I sit as the head coach, and not just watching offense or defense, I usually make a note to the coaches every day what players I notice, and who clearly needs a bigger role and needs the ball, or whatever. And Harvey I think is one. There hasn’t been a day of practice that I haven’t noticed him as either moving faster, creating plays, being around the ball. Still learning assignments, but he is doing a nice job."
Mendenhall on Michael Alisa’s switch back to linebacker:
"He would be another one to put in the same mix that we just talked about. He’s made a lot of plays already — rushing the passer, in coverage, chasing the football, hungrier and I think maybe in a better place just as a person. A better place personally than he might have been for a long time. He’s been a really pleasant surprise."
Speaking of Howell, receiver-turned-DB-turned-receiver-turned DB Michael Davis was asked about the new defensive play-caller on Tuesday.
"Pretty intense [relationship]," Davis said. "He is always screaming at me, screaming at everybody. But it is fun. He’s a cool dude."
I asked Davis if Howell ever cuts him some slack because he’s switched positions so many times.
"The main thing is he gives me more hell," Davis said. "He is always on my back and everything. It is pretty cool, though."
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