PROVO — Two of the most consistent play-makers this spring have been safeties Daniel Sorensen and Joe Sampson. Most sessions don't end without at least one of them recording standout defensive plays.
Sorensen is reprising his role as the starting Kat or strong safety from a year ago, bringing an aggressive – linebacker – type mentality to the position. He spent his first year in the program prior to his mission playing outside linebacker with a lot of the physical mentality required to play the position left over.
"He's doing great," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "He played great for us last year and is preparing himself to be even better this year."
At Kat safety Sorensen often plays very close to the line of scrimmage where his aggressive and physical nature surface. During many of the early scrums this spring — Sorensen was oftentimes right in the middle of them.
"He's really athletic," said Mendenhall. "He's learning a lot more about discipline, eye control and being more consistent. So he's working on being more sound and at (developing) better mastery at his position."
Joe Sampson made his name last year playing alongside Sorensen at Kat safety with Mendenhall employing a lot of nickel formations during the last half of the year. While there he immediately made an impact — providing punishing hits playing just off the line of scrimmage.
This spring he's being asked to play at free safety which would require him to play much farther off the line and perhaps neutralizing a lot of his effectiveness playing just off the line.
"If we didn't feel we had a nice solution from someone else (we'd keep him at Kat safety,)" said Mendenhall. "With Spencer Hadley and Alani Fua (playing well), the solution is to get the best 11 players out there at the same time. What you may sacrifice in a step here or there you gain in the collective."
For Sampson, he doesn't anticipate undergoing much of a change with how he plays regardless of his specific position.
"I'm going to come at you hard every time and so is Daniel — we all are," said Sampson. "I like how we came out and we're going to take an aggressive attitude all spring, and into everything we do. It doesn't matter what position we're playing — we're bringing it. At least that's my mentality."
RILEY RANKLED: Quarterback Riley Nelson expressed a lot of frustration with how practices are going so far. With almost the entire assumed starting lineup sitting out with injury he's had to make due with a lot of inexperienced players.
He finished today's session going 2-6 for just 15 yards and an interception. Mike Hague accounted for the pick.
"We have a 240 pound tackle playing in just his ninth practice going up against a three-year letterman — that's just what happens," said Nelson.
"When you're hitting your last step and coaches are blowing the whistle it gets frustrating, so you try to change — you try to get out of your normal play and things just get worse from there…. it's been frustrating during the last couple of days."14 comments on this story
A lot of the offensive problems can be traced to a makeshift offensive line which doesn't include any of the assumed returning starters from a year ago.
SHORTENED SPRING 'GAME': Mendenhall confirmed after practice that the team will not have a spring game this Saturday, but a shortened practice session. He stated that they'll start at noon and won't go past 1pm, for all those who are interested in attending.
APO OUT: Receiver Ross Apo will have surgery on his injured shoulder and will miss the rest of spring. Trainers anticipate him being 100 percent by August, however.