SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s first spring scrimmage blossomed into a good thing for quarterback Travis Wilson. The junior, who is working his way back into form after missing the last three games of 2013 because of an intracranial artery injury, threw five touchdown passes Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“It feels really good,” said Wilson, who left the field with a smile on his face. “It feels good to be back in the swing of things and I’m really happy just to get another chance to play football and today was a great showing of our new offense.”
Wilson completed 11 of 21 passes for 182 yards in the situational scrimmage that included red zone and two-minute work. He connected on a pair of scoring strikes to both Dres Anderson (58, 37 yards) and Westlee Tonga (22, 8 yards), as well as a single 12-yard touchdown toss to Bubba Poole.
Running backs Marcus Sanders-Williams and Devontae Booker added TD runs of 39 and 5 yards, respectively.
“We were executing on all levels with running and passing. It was great,” Anderson said. “We executed. We had explosive plays. So everything went well.”
Wilson, who has been cleared for non-contact drills this spring, was praised by coach Kyle Whittingham for being especially sharp in the scrimmage. He said it was probably the quarterback’s best day of camp, thus far.
“He was rusty when we started spring,” Whittingham said. “He wasn’t allowed to do much of anything in the offseason, and so he’s still not quite where he was when he was hitting on all cylinders in the season early on. But he’s made a lot of progress.”
Other notable performances on offense were logged by Anderson (three catches for 114 yards), Sanders-Williams (eight rushes for 73 yards) and quarterback Conner Manning (9 of 16 passing for 66 yards).
“We made some plays. As I told my guys, every time you put something on video, we’re going to find a lot of things we can correct and get better at,” said offensive coordinator Dave Christensen. “There were some positives. There’s no question.”
Christensen noted that Wilson did some really good things with the offense.
“I thought he did a nice job today with the football,” Christensen said.
Wilson, in turn, also felt the scrimmage was a success.
“We made some really big plays,” Wilson said. “Guys did really good running their routes and we connected on a lot of big ones.”
Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake also saw some positives, despite acknowledging that it wasn’t the best scrimmage on that side of the ball.
“But I saw a lot of good things that we can work on and stuff that we can build upon,” said Sitake, who explained that he was able to see a lot of the guys he wanted to — learning how several players have progressed since last year and also getting reps for players new to the program.
And for the most part, he continued, they responded the right way.
“I was really proud of the guys,” said Sitake, whose defense was without several projected starters who were held out for precautionary reasons. “We’re going against really good talent on the offensive side of the ball and a physical O-line. I thought for what we wanted it was good, but I don’t think it was a great scrimmage.”
Defensive end Pita Taumoepenu recovered a fumble and recorded a sack. Defensive back Justin Thomas broke up two passes.
All said, Whittingham called the ninth spring practice and initial scrimmage a good day of work. The Utes got in over 100 reps.
“It was fairly clean and overall a very positive practice, a very positive scrimmage,” he said.
EXTRA POINTS: Wide receiver Andre Lewis suffered an MCL sprain in the scrimmage, but Whittingham said he is expected to be OK. ... Backup kicker Jon Halliday made 10 of 11 field goal attempts and starter Andy Phillips connected on 8 of 9. ... The Utes resume camp Tuesday from 3-5 p.m. on the practice field west of the new football facility.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @DirkFacer
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company