The offense definitely won the day, the running backs and offensive line in particular. Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham went so far as to say that it was the best practice yet. Junior running back Bubba Poole burst through a nice whole for a 30+ yard carry, and junior back Devontae Booker nearly took a short screen pass 70 yards to the house. Redshirt freshman Dre'Vian Young also had a decent play on a screen pass. (Lots of swing routes on the day, with only one or two blown-up.)
The offensive line helped to open holes and block downfield on the screens. The big guys up front also created good pockets for the quarterbacks and running backs. If the season started today, you'd see the the offensive line as Jeremiah Poutasi, Junior Salt, Siaosi Aiono, Isaac Asiata, and J.J. Dielman (from left to right). Still lots of reps to go and rotations to try, but I see those as the starting five at this point. That's a line Ute fans can generally feel comfortable with.
Wilson said he feels very comfortable with the line in front of him and the way they've been playing. That shows with his completion rate and very few turnovers.
For quarterbacks, returning starter Travis Wilson definitely looked better. He did have a few missed throws (missed on a swing pass and at least one other overthrow), but Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson had more misses today (at least three). At this point, just four practices into fall camp, we would be surprised if Wilson is not the starting QB on Aug. 28. When we spoke with offensive coordinator Dave Christensen about what he wants in a QB, he stressed taking care of the football and making smart decisions. He was happy with no interceptions today, and only one in four practices. (Depending on who you ask, Wilson's anywhere from 70-80% completion rate during camp.)
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
The receivers/tight ends were relatively quiet today, mostly catching short passes. I believe there was only one deep ball thrown, an overthrown ball by Thompson (intended for Scott), and Davion Orphey got called for pass interference covering junior Kenneth Scott. Senior wideout Dres Anderson and senior tight end Westlee Tonga both had catches on screen passes. Senior wide receiver Andre Lewis again had a drop but also had one catch. Senior Kaelin Clay saw action in the slot today, as wsaw less of sophomore speedster Delshawn McClellon.
Andy Phillips missed a few kicks in practice today, but Whit shrugged them off and said he's not worried. The first miss was due to a bad snap by Chase Domingues while on the second kick, Phillips' foot scuffed the ground. He did make the majority of his kicks, including a 45 yarder that had at least another 5-10 yards of clearance.
Whittingham said seniors Davion Orphey and Eric Rowe are the left and right corners, with the nickel still up in the air. Cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah said all CB positions are still very much in play. Shah loves Rowe's size, quickness, and discipline. He especially likes his eye discipline after switching from safety, and said it's a roadblock a lot of safeties have when they switch.
Still concerns of turnover margin from a defensive standpoint. Haven't seen very many opportunities for turnovers, which is credit to the offensive discipline. Secondary is hungry for interceptions, yet even with concern for lack of turnovers, corners are doing a very nice job in covering. They've been making it difficult for receivers to catch anything past 5-7 yards.
Offensive Player of the Day: The entire running back corps - the top three guys continue to make plays and show that any of the guys in this three-headed monster can hurt a defense in a multitude of ways
Defensive Player of the Day: Jason Whittingham and Jared Norris both had strong days from the linebacker position, closing in quickly to stop the run, while showing equal comfort dropping back into coverage.
At the end of practice, the team gathered around for a golf challenge. The players were split into groups then had to hit a golf ball 80 yards at a bucket, closest shot wins. Coach Whittingham took the last shot of the day and shanked it about 15 yards out of the field (they were hitting from right between the hashes. Coach shook it off, however, and laughed, admitting it wasn't his finest shot (his first comment in the video interview). Winner of the challenge was punter Tom Hackett, with Andy Phillips the runner up (you'd hope the specialists would win this challenge since accuracy is the name of their game).
Morgan Scalley said Sharrieff Shah is the best golfer. Shah said Stubblefield is the best.