The University of Utah football team began their preparations for the season opener today, practicing in helmets and shoulder pads. Scouts from the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, and Miami Dolphins attended practice, as well. The final segment of practice featured 7-on-7 drills with four ladders situated in front of the quarterbacks to simulate traffic at the line of scrimmage. Each drive started at the offense's own 30-yard line with the first and second units rotating after each series.
"Today was good, a Monday practice format," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "We handled it well. Put all of the game plans in and putting the finishing touches on, that's what we'll be doing over the next few days. Then we'll line up and play on Thursday. We'll have a practice tomorrow and Sunday off then Wednesday is very light so we really have three work days to go. We're excited for the season and sick of lining up against each other. It's time to line up against someone else and that's now six days away."
Juniors Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson again had nice days. Wilson attempted three passes downfield. Of the three, one was a beautiful completion to a well-covered Kenneth Scott. The other two were incompletions, but the only bad one was when Wilson overthrew a wide open Tim Patrick by at least five yards. Thompson didn't try a deep throw, instead throwing screens, slants, and other short to intermediate passes.
"Travis Wilson has competed every day out here [at practice]," offensive coordinator Dave Christensen said. "It doesn't matter who is starting, everyone out here is working to get better."
It was a quiet day from the running backs, as the offense seemed oriented more toward the pass today. None of the top three broke out for a big run or play after the catch, but that's not really concerning, as the coaches seemed to be testing the arms and minds of the QBs.
Again, the receivers stood out as the strongest position group today. Scott made a great catch on Travis's sole deep completion. Despite being well covered by Orphey, the 6-3 junior was able to use his size and strength to catch the ball and hold onto it for a long touchdown. Patrick continues to get separation from any receiver that covers him, whether it be on short, intermediate, or deep routes. On the pass Travis overthrew, Patrick was able to beat the corner and create at least five to 10 yards of separation as he was streaking downfield.
A quiet but productive day from the line, which is exactly what you want to hear. Both quarterbacks had plenty of time to go through their reads and get the ball out of their hands. We wont be able to tell until quite possibly the Michigan game, but the O-line seems to finally be clicking.
Today was the offense's day, with no one truly standing out on defense.
Defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi had this to say about his transition from defensive end, "A big challenge was maintaining my weight and getting used to going through workouts with it. It has become part of my life so I'm used to it now. The challenge I have right now is improving my technique as a defensive lineman."
Play of the Day:
Scott's catch emphasized perfectly the elements he brings to the game, size and some of the best hands seen in recent years.
Tonight, the team will walk through a "mock game," getting the timing down for all pre-game preparations leading up to the kickoff. The Utes players will also vote on captains and leadership council members during a meeting tonight.
"It's huge," Whittingham said of the team leaders. "I've never been involved with a great team that didn't have great leadership. If we're going to have a chance to do some things this year then we have to have leaders step up. We've had good leadership throughout fall camp. We have a lot of new faces in the program so we wanted to wait until fall camp is over and everyone got to know everyone before we made this decision. We have a great pool of candidates. We're going to have five captains, two on offense, two on defense and one on special teams."
We caught up with redshirt freshman running back Troy McCormick after practice: