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From the Press Box: Utah Football Bye Week Practice Report - Day Two

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Monte Seabrook gets reps at running back, and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham lays down the law regarding domestic violence.

Nate Orchard (shown here sacking Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan during last season's 27-21 upset of the then no. 5 Cardinal) is tied for second in the Pac-12 in sacks at 2.5.
Nate Orchard (shown here sacking Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan during last season's 27-21 upset of the then no. 5 Cardinal) is tied for second in the Pac-12 in sacks at 2.5.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

On the third day of their bye week, Utah continued preparations for their trip to Ann Arbor, Mich. to take on the Wolverines of Michigan. The Utes travel to the Midwest on Sept. 20 for a 1:30 MT kick off against the currently 1-1 Big Ten team.

Click here for our interview with Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham.

Click here for our interview with Utah backup quarterback Kendal Thompson.

Click here for our interview with Utah right tackle J.J. Dielman.

Utah is Utterly Offensive:

Utah leads the Pac-12 and is fourth nationally in scoring offense (57.5 points per game). Senior wide receiver Dres Anderson is 10th nationally in yards per catch (27.9). Junior wide receiver Kenneth Scott is currently tied for sixth nationally with three touchdown receptions. And the man throwing the ball to them? Junior quarterback Travis Wilson is second nationally in QBR at 213.9, just behind Tyler Jones of Texas State.

During practice Wednesday, Wilson looked sharp throwing the ball during both 7-on-7 drills and scrimmaging in shells (helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. He made nice throws to receivers Kenneth Scott and Tim Patrick and running back Bubba Poole. Wilson continued his smart decision making on the read option that fans saw during the Fresno State game. Backup quarterback Kendal Thompson also made several nice throws and showed his athleticism with a few scrambles. (Could be that Thompson will see the field in a special formation or personnel package in the coming weeks.)

Given the extra time a bye week affords, Utah cornerback Monte Seabrook is getting some reps at running back to provide more depth at the position.

Utes Get Defensive:

Utah leads the nation in tackles for loss (21) and are second in tackles for loss per game (10.5). The Utes are tied for second in the nation for sacks (11) and sacks per game (5.5). Defensive ends Hunter Dimick and Nate Orchard are tied for second in the Pac-12 in sacks with 2.5 each.

In Wednesday's practice, the big news on defense was that linebacker Gionni Paul was playing and playing well. He had a great hit on sophomore tight end Siale Fakailoatonga to break up a pass from Thompson. Paul was not made available to interview and Whittingham did not comment on him. All we know right now is that he is practicing and his status for the Michigan game is still uncertain, but things are looking up.

Other nice defensive performances were turned in by senior cornerback Eric Rowe and defensive end Dimick. Rowe made a great tackle in the backfield on a run by Troy McCormick. Rowe may have struggled at times in pass coverage against Fresno State, but he has consistently shown he can come up and make plays in the running game. He will just take some time to get adjusted to cornerback from his free safety position. Corner is the most demanding position with the defensive scheme Utah runs, requiring impeccable technique and discipline. Dimick is such an force rushing the passer off the edge. The sophomore made several nice plays in the scrimmage as a pass rusher. With he and junior Jason Fanaika both capable defensive ends, that allows the coaches to utilize Orchard at outside linebacker, if necessary, a la New York Jets' OLB Trevor Reilly.

Week 3 Bowl Projections:

One media site predicts Utah will play in its first bowl since the 2011 Sun Bowl, a 30-27 overtime victory against Georgia Tech. According to SB Nation, the Utes will face the Broncos of Boise State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 20. However, other media outlets aren't so sure.

CBSSports.com and ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy aren't convinced by the Utes 115 points scored or early 2-0 record. Perhaps Utah's strength of schedule worries them regarding the Utes' ability to win four more games. Perhaps it is Utah's vulnerable defensive secondary or the thin linebacking corps. (However, as of Sept. 7, ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog had Utah listed as going to the Las Vegas Bowl, as well. Apparently, Kyle Bonagura doesn't agree with his cohorts Schlabach and McMurphy.)

Utes in the NFL:

Ravens' wide receiver Steve Smith led Baltimore with 118 receiving yards on seven receptions (16.9 avg.), including an 80-yard touchdown pass in a 23-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Watch Steve Smith's 80-yard touchdown run at nfl.com.

Cleveland Browns' defensive linebacker Paul Kruger sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice and totaled five tackles in a 30-27 loss at Pittsburgh.

San Diego Chargers' defensive back Eric Weddle broke up two passes and came away with four tackles in an 18-17 loss at Arizona on Monday night.

Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback Alex Smith completed 19 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown in 26-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

New England Patriots' defensive lineman Sealver Siliga had six solo tackles in 33-20 loss at Miami.

Minnesota Vikings' fullback Matt Asiata rushed twice for 10 yards and had a 5-yard reception during 34-6 road win over the St. Louis Rams.

Kansas City Chiefs' defensive back Sean Smith turned in four solo tackles and a pass breakup in a 26-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Miami Dolphins' linebacker Koa Misi picked up two solo tackles in 33-20 victory over the New England Patriots. 

Carolina Panthers' defensive lineman Star Lotulelei recorded a solo tackle in 20-14 road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

San Diego defensive lineman Tenny Palepoi recorded a solo tackle for the Chargers in an 18-17 road loss at Arizona.

Oakland Raiders' defensive back Keith McGill was credited with a solo tackle during a 19-14 loss against the New York Jets.

One former NFL Ute who was spotted at practice today was safety Robert Johnson, and more NFL scouts were at practice today.

Michigan Game Notes:

Utah is 7-12 all time against the B1G, 1-0 under Whittingham. Utah is 1-1 in the series with Michigan, both games played in Ann Arbor. Next season, Michigan makes their first trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium on Sept. 3, 2015.

Whittingham is 6-4 in games after a bye week; however, he is also 0-4 since joining the Pac-12 (losses to Washington, USC, UCLA, and Arizona State). As the team does for every road trip, the offense will have to practice with crowd noise being piped in from speakers inside to simulate the noise the team will experience on the road.

True freshman quarterback Donovan Isom is running the scout team to simulate what Utah will see from Michigan QB Devin Gardner.

Whittingham called 6-5, 230-pound Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess a tough matchup. On the season, Funchess has 16 receptions for 202 yards and three touchdowns. In the Wolverines last game against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, Funchess recorded nine catches for 107 yards, but the big wideout failed to find the end zone, as Michigan was shutout in South Bend.

"We have to try to do our best to slow him down, Whittingham said. "I don't know if anyone can match up with him and take him away, but we've got to try to keep him from going crazy on us."

Domestic Violence in Football:

Given the news from the NFL about domestic violence, football coaches around the country have been taking notice. One of Utah's core values is "treat women with respect." Thankfully, domestic violence is not an issue the Utah football team has to deal with.

"We expect women to be treated with respect and there's severe consequences if that isn't adhered to," said Whittingham.

Ring of Fire:

As you can probably hear in the background of the interview with Coach Whittingham, Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire is playing for development players to practice and lift to. It has been a bye week tradition for roughly 15 years.