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Utah Utes football: Seeing red

U. opens season with a mission to take MWC title

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 5 2008 12:11 a.m. MDT

Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham addresses members of the media after the Utes held their first practice of the 2008 season.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

If there was a standout performer in Utah's first day of camp, it might have been strength and conditioning coach Doug Elisaia. The offseason efforts of Elisaia and his staff paid immediate dividends.

"It was very evident that the summer conditioning program was very effective," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "They're in good shape, and that's always something you want to see."

The Utes, who open the season Aug. 30 at Michigan, got started with split sessions on Monday. While one group was on the field, the other was in the weight room.

"All the hard work from summer showed up in today's workout," said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.

Things went so smoothly, in fact, Ludwig joked that the players probably could have gotten things done without the coaches.

"But things moved a lot faster when we were out there," he said. "It was a good day's work."

Whittingham agreed. He said the Utes "got off on the right foot" and added that the 104 participants did well from an effort, focus and concentration perspective.

"It was good. The first day is always an exciting part of camp.

"Everybody is fired up," quarterback Brian Johnson said. "It went well. Guys competed and did a good job, but there's still a long way to go. We've still got work to do.

"The focus for us is to just keep getting better everyday and get ready for Michigan," he said.

With the season-opener less than four weeks away, the Utes were eager to get back on the field.

"We started off on a very positive note," wide receiver Brent Casteel said. "So everything's looking up right now."

Running back Darrell Mack acknowledged the Utes had fun getting camp started. Defensive end Paul Kruger had similar thoughts.

"Everybody is just really excited for the first day. It's always pretty competitive," he said. "It's good to get back."

Kruger noted that the intensity level was high and that the coaches got after the players to go full speed and play hard.

"The kids responded," said defensive coordinator Gary Andersen. "I think that they're in good shape. The strength coaches did a nice job with them."

The Utes, however, aren't content with the solid showing on opening day.

"It's a good start. That's what it is," said special teams coordinator Jay Hill. "It's just a start, but it's a very good start."

Over the remaining weeks of camp, there are several objectives the coaching staff is seeking to complete.

Whittingham said the list includes continued continuity on the offensive line, developing depth at receiver and getting a look at the defensive tackles and linebackers to make sure the right guys are on the field. Identifying the best 11 players on offense and defense, as well as modifying schemes are among the issues to be settled in camp.

Offense

With eight returning starters, Ludwig said the Utes have three primary objectives in camp.

"We've got to establish the personality and chemistry on the offensive side of the football," he said. "We've got to establish depth, get our starting 11 and then the next best 11 behind them. And show great ownership in the offensive scheme."

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