PROVO — When asked what is the deepest position on the team this year, most would say it’s at inside linebacker. With two seasoned seniors leading the way, there isn’t much angst regarding the overall depth and talent at the Mike and Buck linebacker positions.
“At this point, and we’re not even halfway done with camp, I’d feel comfortable using as many as seven guys,” said inside linebacker Coach Paul Tidwell. “It’s a luxury, but it also breeds great competition at practice. It pushes the older guys and makes the younger guys pay attention, so we feel like we’re in good shape.”
The strength at inside linebacker begins with returning starters Uona Kaveinga and Brandon Ogletree. Both are expected to reprise their starting roles this season.
“I couldn’t ask for two better senior leaders,” said Tidwell. “They’re great examples to the younger guys about the way you’re supposed to do things and the way we work here. It’s a blessing having two guys like Uona (Kaveinga) and Brandon (Ogletree) leading this group.”
Another senior who Tidwell has at his disposal is Austen Jorgensen, who is back at inside linebacker after attempting to play fullback.
“It’s great to have him back because he could play at both mike and at buck,” said Tidwell. “It’s just another guy I can rely on, so he just makes us that much stronger.”
With so many able bodies at inside linebacker, Tidwell may have a tough time figuring out a two-deep roster in time for the season. With at least seven capable players Tidwell may be using the designation “or” a lot when making his two-deep roster.
In the past, Tidwell has made due using four players to rotate in and out at both inside positions, but mentioned he may go four-deep when it’s time to play.
“We have a lot of time to sort that out and guys have a lot of opportunity to step up and show us that they’re the guys we should be playing,” said Tidwell. “I haven’t decided who exactly I’ll use when the season comes or how I use them, but we’ll be sorting that out leading up to the season.
Zac Stout, Tyler Beck and Austen Jorgensen have logged the most time with the 2s through six days of camp, but Manoa Pikula and Uani Unga are both right there making their own bids to appear on the two-deep roster.
“Tyler (Beck) is healthy and both him and Zac (Strout) are really pushing our seniors which is great,” said Tidwell. “Then you have Manoa (Pikula) and I wouldn’t hesitate putting him in during just about any situation if I needed too. Uani (Unga) is doing well and yeah, it’s probably the deepest we’ve been at inside linebacker for a long while.”
With the existing depth at inside linebacker, Tidwell has still noticed the contribution of true freshmen Butch Pau’u and Rhett Sandlin.
“Butch (Pau’u) is very smart and very good and so is Rhett (Sandlin),” said Tidwell. “Butch may still get on the plane with us to play special teams because I’ve been very impressed with how he’s done so far. Both of those guys will wait for their time, but it’s already obvious that they’re going to be good players for us.”
-There is no definitive word on Justin Sorensen yet. Coaches and doctors will continue to monitor his situation with hopes he’ll be ready for the coming season.
-both Joe Sampson and Cody Hoffman returned to practice today having served out their suspensions.
-Ezekial Ansah logged time with the 1s at defensive end with Ian Dulan being held out with a tweaked back.
-Riley Nelson went 1-5 for five yards during team drills. His first pass was picked off by Sam linebacker Spencer Hadley.
-James Lark went 1-3 for 15 yards. Taysom Hill went 1-2 for 10 yards.
-Adam Hine was the featured back during team drills and broke off a couple of nice runs up the middle and around the edge.
-The team will hold its first scrimmage of fall camp tomorrow at LaVell Edwards stadium. The scrimmage is open to the public.