Utah football took the practice field for the third practice of fall camp (the second open to the media). In the 20 minutes the media could observe, there were some great plays from both the offense and the defense, so let’s dive right in.
Troy Williams had himself a day. He looked poised in the pocket and delivered several strikes deep down the field to Bronson Boyd (a Texas Tech transfer), Tyquez Hampton, and Kyle Fulks for 30+ yard gains. The throw to Hampton was a beautifully placed ball where only Hampton could catch it. I only remember one bad throw from Williams, and he followed it up with the bomb to Hampton. Huntley had some nice throws on the day and moves really well in the pocket. He is has great athleticism and sees the field well. Cooper Bateman did not get many reps today and was sacked. He did find Darren Carrington on a low pass. For the first time, the media got to see freshman Jason Shelley at quarterback. Shelley is athletic and evades pressure well. He also has a big arm, but he struggled with accuracy and touch on his throws. He underthrew a ball, and it was intercepted. Offensive coordinator Troy Taylor confirmed to the media that Shelley will redshirt this year.
Devontae Henry-Cole had a nice run where he showed great vision and got to the second level and took off. Utah has three very talented running backs with Henry-Cole, Zack Moss, and Armand Shyne. Taylor told the media that the running backs will be utilized more catching passes and have been working hard on the Jugs Machine to improve their hands. Shyne echoed this sentiment of improved pass catching ability. Taylor also hinted at two back sets.
Fulks beat Jaylon Johnson deep to catch the long pass from Williams mentioned earlier. Siaosi Wilson is having a nice camp. He has great hands and gets open. Bryan Thompson caught a pass today as well. As mentioned earlier, Fulks, Hampton, and Boyd each hauled in long completions. This was without one of the best receivers: Raelon Singleton who is out for the next few days with a minor injury per Whittingham. Wide receiver coach Guy Holliday said Taylor’s offense is “fun” because of how often the ball is thrown. Holliday is open to starting a bunch of freshmen or more experienced players or a mixture. He just wants to get the best group on the field.
It is hard to judge offensive linemen without pads, a sentiment echoed by head coach Kyle Whittingham. Jordan Agasiva and the line in general seemed to gel a bit more today than in day one. Agasiva received praised after practice from Whittingham.
The same holds true with the defensive line that it is hard to get a feel for their play without pads. It is clear though that Utah has a lot of talent on the line. Lowell Lotulelei, Filipo Mokofisi, and Kylie Fitts are the leaders of the group. Fitts is a terror off the edge according to Williams and is very similar to former Utah defensive end Hunter Dimick. Whittingham praised Fitts for his great combination of size and “cat quickness.” Whittingham praised sophomore Leki Fotu. On redshirt freshman Maxs Typai, Whittingham said that he is learning the position after playing linebacker in high school and will be a good player.
The linebackers are a more experienced group than last year. Whittingham lauded Sunia Tauteoli, Kavika Luafatasaga, Donavan Thompson, Cody Barton, and Devin Lloyd. Luafatasaga is a player Whittingham said was playing at an All-Pac-12 level at the end of last season. He was flying around in practice today and had at least one tackle for loss.
The secondary got a huge compliment from Whittingham today: he said that this year’s group could be better than last year’s. Boobie Hobbs looked great during the media viewing session. He recorded a pass breakup and intercepted a Shelley pass. Johnson, Terrell Burgess, and Julian Blackmon were highlighted by Whittingham. The big question related to the secondary is about a player who wasn’t playing: Chase Hansen. It was announced today he is out indefinitely. Whittingham said he is hopeful to have Hansen back by the start of the season. With Hansen out, it gives other players a chance to get more reps. Corrion Ballard was slid over to strong safety from free safety, and Phillip Afia is playing free safety. Marquise Blair is also getting reps at safety. Hansen is a leader on the field and helps with coverages according to Lotulelei.
Usually at this point in fall camp defense is ahead of the offense, but I felt like today was more evenly matched between the two sides. The cornerbacks made some nice plays on the ball, but the wide receivers certainly made their share of plays as well. The offensive and defensive lines had some nice battles as well.
Another thing worth noting is Taylor’s philosophy on tempo. He said that it will vary depending on how the offense is moving the ball. It does the offense no good to go fast at the start of a drive. However, after a big play or if the offense is driving, they will ramp the tempo up to catch the defense off guard. It seems like players and coaches are buying into Taylor’s offense, and the intensity and effort are showing so far in the two days the media have viewed camp.