The 2014 season official got started today with the beginning of fall camp. All players, both returners, recruits, and mystery late additions were on the field working hard. Here's a breakdown of what our staff noted:
Kendal Thompson has pretty quick footwork. He delivered mostly good balls, but he has a hitch in his release. It wasn't a negative today, and Thompson seems to have the understanding of it and arm strength to work with it. However, it could be a weakness, and his passes have the potential to be swatted by defensive linemen. He showed nice get-away speed when under pressure, although his mental “pressure clock” seemed to go off a little early at times. Still, he showed good general poise and delivered the ball well on short to intermediate routes, but didn't try anything deep really. He also was able to scramble and extend the play a few times. In interviews, Thompson seems calm, well spoken, and collected.
Travis Wilson looked good. It appears his arm's gotten even stronger during summer conditioning. The 6-7 junior threw two passes deep down the left sideline. One pass was caught by Kenneth Scott, while the other was incomplete because Reggie Porter did a fine job of jamming Dominique Hatfield.
The quarterback competition seems to be between Wilson and Thompson. Manning had very few reps, but the oline and running backs werent doing him many favors.
Kaelin Clay is both quick and fast. We’ll have to see him in more practices to get an idea of his play-making ability, but we at least know he is a good athlete.
With just 20 minutes of practice observed, it's difficult to get a full read on the offense. However, what we were able to observe looked like they were keeping the scheme very simple. Success was dependent on execution, and the smallest amount of time possible between plays. You could hear new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen all the way across the field shouting "Tempo, Tempo, Tempo!" A few of the new guys were on the sidelines gasping for breath with their hands on their knees. It truly looks like Christensen is emphasis an Oregon-esque type of tempo and offense.
Aside from the two deep balls, most of the plays run were screens, slants over the middle, and inside runs.
The player who stood out was redshirt freshman Troy McCormick (5-9, 172). He was impressive catching passes out of the backfield. Devontae Booker and Bubba Poole both had a few good runs, but limited observation time and the fact that the defense was tapping off rather than tackling left the competition for the starting tailback difficult to really assess.
The offensive line should be settled within the next week. The left side will be set with Poutasi at left tackle, Junior Salt at left guard, and Siaosi Aiono at center. Today, most of the reps at right guard were taken by Isaac Asiata. Most of the reps at right tackle were taken by J.J. Dielman. Dielman could be a good candidate for the spot, but might need to add a bit of extra strength.
Eric Rowe is set, at least at this point, to play cornerback this season. The Utes are planning on Tevin Carter and Brian Blechen at safety, with Rowe and Davion Orphey holding down the left and right corner spots. Justin Thomas and Porter will fight over the nickelback position.
Gionni Paul is on or slightly ahead of schedule in his rehab. Jacoby Hale’s rehab has been slower. The Utes are aiming for Hale to return around mid-conference season.
Best player of the day: Thompson - he showed he's a legit quarterback and a natural leader with a good football IQ.
Also, K-Scott - he had the best catch and looked fully healthy.
Best quote of the day: Has to be coach Kalani Sitake. When asked about playing more nickel, he responded, "You know, I'd play six D-linemen if I could, but no one's running an offense anymore where that'd be a good matchup."
Favorite Interview of the day: Tie between new wide receivers Tim Patrick and Clay. Two completely opposite personalities. Clay has that bit of swagger you like to see in a player, but he is also humble and talked about his journey from highschool through JC to get here. He gets that he's been given a gift, and he's looking forward to embracing it fully. Patrick was a bit shy, but he was well spoken and amiable. He appeared to be a great person and someone you can really root for to succeed. He said he was really excited to play to a big crowd, since he never had before.