Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Friday's scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium proved to be a positive outing for the Utah Utes. They left the field somewhat satisfied as both their offense and defense found success at times in the situational gathering.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham called it a good scrimmage with a lot of positives. There were some mistakes as well, he acknowledged, before noting the bottom line.
“We saw progress,” said Whittingham, who was especially pleased with the offense and how they completed drives — making very few critical mistakes as compared to last Saturday’s scrimmage.
The Utes scored seven touchdowns on rushing plays and four via the air.
“The offense is really getting in sync,” said Dres Anderson, who led all receivers in the scrimmage with six catches for 103 yards and a score. “We’re getting our plays down; we’re executing well; and we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot. We’ve just got everything rolling right now.”
The up-tempo offense, he added, is wearing the defense down.
After making noting that the starting defense did not participate in the scrimmage (mostly for precautionary reasons because of injuries), Whittingham liked the pace of the offense and the lack of drops by the receivers.
Besides Anderson, 12 others caught passes. Kenneth Scott and Lucky Radley each made four grabs.
Starting quarterback Travis Wilson completed 11 of 25 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Adam Schulz was 13 of 22 for 175 yards and a pair of scores, while Brandon Cox hit the mark of 7 of 10 attempts for 66 yards.
“They were extremely sharp at times,” Whittingham said, before noting that Wilson and Schulz were each picked off twice. “They both had a couple of throws they wished they would have back, but the first two guys did a nice job.”
Whittingham was also impressed with Cox. The true freshman had a 19-yard touchdown run and finished with 50 yards rushing on seven carries.
“He’s a playmaker,” Whittingham said. “He moves around the pocket well and he’s got that ability to extend the play, which is something that drives defensive coordinators nuts.”
The Utes had 10 players finish with positive yardage on the ground. James Poole led the way with 68 yards and three touchdowns, while Radley finished just behind Cox with 47 and a score.
“The O-line did a great job opening holes and everything was there,” Poole said. “We just had to take care of the rest and hit the hole.”
Wilson thought the offense got better as the scrimmage progressed and “made a big step forward.” Things, he added, were a lot better this week.
Co-offensive coordinators Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson also noted improvement.
Aside from being slow the first two drives, Erickson said the offense hit all cylinders pretty good. The negative, obviously, were the four interceptions. Even so, Erickson said Wilson and Schulz had their moments out there.
“I think we’ve improved since our last scrimmage,” Erickson said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
The receivers, in particular, really stepped it up. Erickson felt it was the position group’s best day of camp.
“We were able to make some big plays, which is kind of what this offense is all about,” he said. “But you’ve always got to get better.”
Johnson noted that the offense is making progress and is doing some good things.
“There’s still some stuff we need to work on,” he explained. “But the effort and the execution is on schedule where we need to be.”
Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake had mixed thoughts about the scrimmage. He said the defense had some tough spots, but also managed to do some good things.
“Overall I thought it was a good practice,” Sitake said. “We made some big plays.”
Tyron Morris-Edwards highlighted the effort with an 87-yard interception return for a touchdown. Charles Henderson picked off two passes and Quade Chappuis pulled down one.
Six defenders had pass breakups and four made tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“I think we’re playing all right,” said cornerback Keith McGill, who broke up four passes. “We’ve just got to stop allowing big plays, be more fundamentally and technically sound, and we’ll be all right.”
The Utes resume spring camp Tuesday.
“We’ve got six practices left and we need every single one of them,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got to keep progressing.”
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