SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's running back candidates are starting to separate themselves. Head coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged that junior college transfer John White IV and senior Tauni Vakapuna are now leading the race.
"They're running with more violence and vision than the rest of the crew," Whittingham said. "We haven't given up on the rest of the crew by any means, but right now those guys are one and two."
Thretton Palamo and Harvey Langi, he continued, are battling for the third spot right now. Whittingham, however, pointed out that there's still a lot of football left to be played in camp and it's too early to determine how things may shake out.
The surprise, though, is Langi. The highly touted freshman from Bingham High School was considered the frontrunner at one point.
"Harvey's a talented kid. He's just got to run with more violence," Whittingham said. "He's got to have more confidence in himself. I think that will come over time."
SCRIMMAGE REVIEW: Whittingham said the Utes did a lot of positive things in Thursday's scrimmage. He also noted some shortcomings, most notably on offense.
"There's too much separation between the ones and twos on offense. We've got to close that gap," Whittingham said. "That's probably our biggest dilemma right now — getting the twos up to speed, because essentially every one of them is one snap away from being a starter. So we've got to get that fixed."
BACK AT IT: The Utes returned to Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday, opening their second two-a-day of camp with a morning practice — 24 hours after scrimmaging.
"It's a grind and you've got to be mentally ready," Whittingham said. "That's always a concern after a competitive situation like we had yesterday to come out and have a two-a-day staring you in the face, but that's part of being mentally tough and I thought our guys handled it very well today."
BOUNCE BACK: After enduring multiple sacks and having two of his three interceptions returned for touchdowns in Thursday's scrimmage, it's safe to say back-up quarterback Jon Hays has had better days.
Whittingham noted that it wasn't all on Hays, who had defensive linemen right in his face on several occasions.
On Friday, Hays bounced back.
"He is a tough, competitive kid," Whittingham said. "And he he came out today and did some good things."
Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson agreed.
"He's a confident guy," Johnson said. "We watched the film and made the necessary corrections we needed to make."
Bad outings, added the former quarterback, happen to the best of the best. The key, Johnson explained, is just to bounce and not repeat the same mistakes over and over.
"He's a tough kid," Johnson said. "He came out today and had a nice practice."
EXTRA POINTS: The Utes are scheduled to scrimmage again Tuesday and Saturday. ... Offensive lineman Daniel Nielson and running back Shawn Asiata are out with concussions, while defensive tackle LT Tuipulotu is sidelined for 5-7 days with an sprained ankle. ... Whittingham expects to have a definitive answer on the status of offensive lineman Po'u Palelei, a junior college transfer working on academic requirements, by Monday.
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