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Utah Utes football notebook: If practice is an indicator, Utes will be ready for Wildcats

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 7:52 p.m. MDT

Utah's Trevor Reilly, left, and Brian Blechen  at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, in Salt Lake City.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah's Trevor Reilly, left, and Brian Blechen at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — If the old adage holds true, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham expects the Utes to make significant improvement this week against Weber State. Whittingham likes what he’s seen from his team since their season-opening 30-26 win over Utah State.

“Practice has been really clean. We’ve cut down on the mistakes in practice. But that’s got to transfer into the games or else it’s not a factor,” Whittingham said. “But if based on what’s going on in practice, which is usually a good indicator of how you’re going to play, then hopefully we’re going to make a big improvement between last week and this week.”

And it matters little that the Utes are playing an FCS team in the Wildcats. They’re well aware of the upsets that took place last week. The surprises included Eastern Washington winning at Oregon State and North Dakota State prevailing at Kansas State.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, in Salt Lake City.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah coach Kyle Whittingham at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

“If their work ethic and the way they practiced is any indication, they got the message because it’s been three very good days of practice,” Whittingham said.

Utah senior defensive end/linebacker Trevor Reilly said that Weber State is capable of beating a Division 1 team as well.

“If you just turn the film on, they’re pretty good,” he said. “They have some talented players. They play hard.”

Watching the Wildcats on tape, he emphasized, provides more than enough motivation for the Utes to take the game seriously.

READY TO GO: Senior running back Kelvin York, who gained just 30 yards on 10 carries in the opener against USU, is eager to get going against Weber State. He didn’t see any action in the second half against the Aggies.

Running back Kelvin York during Univerisity of Utah football practice  Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (, Deseret News) Running back Kelvin York during Univerisity of Utah football practice Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (, Deseret News)

“I’m ready to go,” York said. “Just ready to have a great game.”

As the coaches have been saying all week, York added that the running backs need to run the ball more violently this week.

CONTINUED SUCCESS: Whittingham isn’t worried about kicker Andy Phillips having any sort of letdown in his second football game. Phillips made three field goals, three PATs and executed a successful onside kick in his debut last week.

“That would be a concern but his mentality and his work ethic and his focus is such that I haven’t sensed any of that,” Whittingham said. “He’s a guy that is never satisfied. He’s out here working his tail off before practice, after practice and so he’s a guy that I don’t think he’s going to let that stuff get to him and have a negative impact.”

TARGETING THE TIGHT ENDS: In the USU game, Jake Murphy caught two passes (one for a touchdown) and Westlee Tonga didn't have any receptions. That, however, will likely change this week as Utah’s highly touted tight ends are expected to play a greater role in the offense.

“We need to get them more involved and the reason is because they’re playmakers,” Whittingham said. “They both played exceptionally well throughout spring ball and throughout fall camp and so we’ve got to make sure as coaches we manufacture opportunities for them.”

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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