Quite a change from practices held in 90-degree temperatures, today's was a cooler, rainier affair. The practice was conducted in shells (helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts), and the offense looked better today than the defense. The offense focused more on passing than running today (maybe to adjust to throwing and catching in the rain).
Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham liked the tempo of the offense and announced that Wallace Gonzalez is officially a defensive player, having transitioned recently from tight end to defensive end. Despite being a freshman, Gonzalez is already on the two deep backing up Nate Orchard at right end.
"Today was a typical practice," Whittingham said. "There was a little bit of weather we dealt with, but we handled it well so it was good. Dominique Hatfield at corner was a positive, he did some good work there. Tevin Carter also looked good at safety. And of course, Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott are two guys who perform every day."
The pouring rain hampered junior quarterbacks Travis WIlson and Kendal Thompson, but they were, for the most part, solid, with Wilson having the better day. Neither had too many bad misses today. There were a few throws that were caught that were not placed perfectly by both quarterbacks, but overall, I thought both Wilson and Thompson looked good. Thompson threw more passes down the field than Wilson today. Neither quarterback ran much (only one or two scrambles from each of them and no designed runs).
Thompson was able to connect on two deep throws, but they were both severely under thrown, which forced the receivers to make great catches. Overall, not a bad day. Nothing truly special, but nothing horrible and no mental mistakes, which is a good sign given the rainy conditions.
Same old from the hydra. All three had some good runs and catches, but production out of the backfield has become the norm throughout camp. Both Bubba Poole and Devontae Booker made nice plays on screen/swing passes (Poole's went for about a 40-yard touchdown, Booker for about 15 yards). Redshirt freshman Troy McCormick had a few rushes where he again showed his balance and speed. Booker has a lot more speed than you would expect for a guy his size. If he can hold onto the ball, expect Booker to be the starting tail back.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
By far the strongest position group today, the receivers kept making play after play. The best three today were former walk-on Tim Patrick, Anderson, and freshman track star Kenric Young. Although he didn't have any eye-popping big plays, Anderson impressed me with the little things he was doing that he didn't do last year. He caught the ball away from his body, made several great finger-catches on overthrown balls, and was focusing on his footwork and route running. In short, he's added the technical fundamentals to his phenomenal athleticism, giving him everything he needs to have a phenominal season this year. As for Patrick, he was creating space and getting open on nearly every play, leading to easy catches and consistent gains. For a man of his size, Patrick runs some of the cleanest routes on the team, allowing for him to create at least five yards of separation on all but a few of his routes today. Patrick had at least five catches. He just gets open, and he catches pretty much everything thrown his way. As for Young, he had two great catches, including the catch of the day. On an underthrown deep ball by Thompson, Young went up over sophomore defensive back Mo Talley to snag the ball out of the air in the endzone for the touchdown. Although he may not crack the starting lineup, Young's play definitely shows the depth at the receiver position this year.
Jameson Field caught three pass from Thompson on four plays. One was a pretty nice run after the catch. Delshawn McCellon had two drops that I saw, but outside of those, the receivers were very impressive catching the ball in the wet conditions. Tight ends Westlee Tonga and Siale Fakailoatonga both recorded catches as well.
No player truly stood out in camp today, which isn't all that bad of a bad thing. As defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake said, the defense was trying out some new stuff, which naturally gave the offense the advantage on the day.
"Defensively, we're going to play a lot of guys," Sitake said. "We normally rotate guys. Right now, there is still a position battle at defensive tackle and that may be a year-long thing. I'm not sure how many guys will be in the mix there, probably four or five who we feel comfortable with, depending on how long it takes to get those guys settled. I feel comfortable with Marcus [Sanders-Williams], Uaea [Masina] and Pita [Taumoepenu] at the stud linebacker position."
The secondary allowed a lot of catches by the receivers, and cornerback Eric Rowe was called for pass interference while covering Anderson. There was not much of a pass rush either in the scrimmage. Linebacker Pita Taumoepenu looked lost at times during the scrimmage, and he will need time to learn the new position.
Player of the Day: Tim Patrick, he caught everything thrown his way and was the favorite target. (You could also give it to the entire receiving corps, as they were consistently productive, despite the occasionally inaccurate throws and the rain.)
Play of the Day: Young's catch between two defenders. Even while lacking the size of an Anderson or Scott, he just wanted the ball more, so he went up and grabbed it.
Quote of the Day: Cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah said, "While we have reloaded, other teams have reloaded with shotguns and bazookas, and we're still trying to fill a 9 Ruger."