The first team defense was never out on the field during the scrimmage portion, and Nate Orchard was on the field without protective gear during interviews. Some first string players played (like linebacker Jared Norris and defensive end Hunter Dimick), but the majority were not playing. Players like cornerbacks Chandler Johnson, Monte Seabrook (who also played wide receiver), and linebackers Marcus Sanders-Williams and Pita Taumoepenu were getting reps instead. Skills positions mostly concentrated on individual technique.
Travis Wilson continued to impress and distance himself from Kendal Thompson today. Wilson had several very nice throws to tight end Westlee Tonga and wide receiver Kaelin Clay. Wilson also had several nice runs. Thompson took at least one sack (then threw an interception on that play after it was blown dead), and the former transfer from Oklahoma had several missed throws. He did have two nice passes to wide receiver Andre Lewis in the endzone, though.
Most of the offense was passing today (which makes sense, since the defense will be facing an Air Raid offense on Saturday), but Bubba Poole and Devontae Booker both had at least one good run each. Troy McCormick was thrown several passes as well.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Tonga and Clay were targeted the most during practice. I like seeing those two involved in the passing game since they are both nice weapons to have. Senior wide receiver Dres Anderson made a great catch on a ball thrown behind him by Wilson. Lewis made two great catches but also had a drop. Seabrook took reps at wide receiver but looked a bit lost and worked with wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield one-on-one.
Anderson noted he's happy to have fellow wideout Kenneth Scott healthy, allowing him to make more plays and run freely after the catch. (That, of course, was on full display when Anderson took a drag route to the house on the opening possession of the second half in Michigan Stadium to put the Utes ahead 19-10.) Naturally, Anderson has also been impressed with the man throwing him the ball.
"Travis is amazing," Anderson said. "He's been a leader in everything he does."
Justin Thomas got a lot of praise from the coaches for making a great tackle in space on McCormick. The defense got a lot of pressure on Thompson, especially Dimick and fellow defensive end Jason Fanaika. (It is always hard to judge how the defense does without full pads and no tackling.)
Freshman quarterback Donovan Isom was the last player at practice. His work ethic is fantastic from what I have heard, and he is in great shape. Brian Blechen again stayed at practice late. Cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah was the last coach to leave practice, again working with his players on catching (listen to the interview with Shah below, assistant coaches are not usually available and Shah is always a great interview). A special guest was at practice, Austin, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Here are some interviews from today's practice, including Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham, linebacker Gionni Paul, defensive backs coach Sharrieff Shah, cornerback Dominique Hatfield, and free safety Tevin Carter!