In the morning session of this two-a-day, the offense was moving the ball well.
Kendal Thompson was the yin to Travis Wilson's yang today. Thompson had a better day today than Wilson, but it's obvious when he's on the field that the offense is much more read-option based. He and Devontae Booker, Troy McCormick, or Bubba Poole are a very formidable run-based offense.
Wilson threw the ball away on one late practice series, feeling the pressure from the blind side. Prior to that, he threw a tight spiral for a 10- to 12-yard first down. While it wasn't Wilson's best day, when he was on the field the offense is more aggressive through the air.
Thompson threw a nice 12- to 15-yard out to new 6-5 wideout Tim Patrick. (Patrick has been getting a lot of targets so far this week in practice. If that continues, fans may see the big wide receiver playing an active role in this season's offense.) Thompson seems fluid on rollouts and when evading pressure in the pocket. He tossed a nice 20-yard sideline pass to sophomore wide receiver Dominique Hatfield.
Practice ended with some nice up-the-middle runs by redshirt freshman Troy McCormick. The Katy, Texas native burst up inside for gains of eight, four, and four on successive runs.
(Watching from the sideline was someone who knows a few things about running the football, former Utah tailback Eddie Johnson. We'll have a lot to talk about with Johnson this week on The U Fan Cast, so don't miss that interview.)
Poole also had a very nice day overall. He showed great decisiveness and speed when hitting the hole. While Booker is still my favorite to start, Poole will have a major say in the decision.
Wide Receiver Drill:
After practice, backup quarterback Adam Schulz stayed afterward to help one of the wide receivers with an interesting drill. The wideout was positioned behind the goal post with his hands out in front of the post. Schulz would throw the ball to the post, and the receiver had to catch it, assumably to train the receiver to catch the ball with his hands rather than relying on his body as a backstop. Perhaps such drills will help whomever is ultimately takes the field at quarterback this season throw fewer interceptions that bounce off his receivers pads.
Offensive Line Getting Push
Watching the running backs picking up chunk yards like they were, it was apparent that the offensive line was getting great push off the ball. The speed and agility of this offense starts up front, and that was apparent today, which was won by the offense, during the time frame I watch anyway.
Given the Day Off:
Coach Whittingham said Brian Blechen and Tevin Carter were given the day off today, which gave younger safeties a chance to show what they can do. While Carter was in a walking boot, Coach Whittingham said it was just a precautionary measure.
"Hopefully, he'll be out of the boot on Monday. It's just precautionary," Whittingham said. "It's just something our trainers advised."
Those young safeties mentioned are freshmen Andre Godrey and Marcus Williams, who Coach Whittingham noted are progressing well. Williams was noted as being an "exceptionally talented kid, as far as his skill set." Williams logged a 41-inch vertical jump and had the longest broad jump on the team.
Put Me in Coach!
Continuing their trend of doing something different after practice, Utah held a home run derby with their offensive and defensive players. With John Fogerty's "Centerfield" playing loudly in the background, junior defensive end Jason Fanaika, who has tree trunks for arms, muscled one over the left field fence, and Conner Manning striped a couple of singles and a high left center shot. But that was basically all for players not named Wallace Gonzales (which included quarterback Schulz, linebacker Jason Whittingham, and quarterback Thompson).
"I haven't swung a bat since high school," said Whittingham, as he strode into the cage.
Gonzales, the freshman tight end who spent three years as an outfielder in the Houston Astros' farm system, hit some titanic blasts to left, left center, and straight-away center field. The former pro baseball player hit seven homers in all. One of his blasts was so huge it landed on the second field out past the left field fence.
The best part of the home run derby was that the rest of the team crowded around the batting cage yelling encouragement at and heckling the batters. Some players yelled the standard, "Hey, batter, batter… SWING!" Still others yelled, "Get out of here!" Another yelled, "Wah, wah, wah…" after a player dribbled one to the where the shortstop might be. The most brutal heckling came when defensive tackle Sam Tevi struck out on almost three straight pitches. The players violently shook the cage, yelling and giving Tevi plenty of grief. When Wallace was at the plate, players circled their heads with a single finger, indicating that ball was over the fence, time to round the bases. Pretty entertaining stuff, and the team seemed to enjoy getting out of the football mindset for a little while.
Quote of the Day: Davion Orphey on having the nations toughest schedule: "Man that's good, we want those good teams... Put Michigan in front of us, we smash Michigan. Put 'SC in front of us, we smash 'SC. It [doesn't] matter who we [are] playin'."