Utah football: Saturday's scrimmage is a huge deal to the Utes

Published: Friday, April 11 2014 6:20 p.m. MDT

Coach Kyle Whittingham watches during a University of Utah Football scrimmage in Salt Lake City, Friday, April 4, 2014. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Coach Kyle Whittingham watches during a University of Utah Football scrimmage in Salt Lake City, Friday, April 4, 2014. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Although Utah’s spring football camp consists of 15 practices, session No. 12 carries more weight than the others. Saturday’s scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium is a big deal — make that a big, big deal.

“It’s the most important practice of the spring. Everything is going to be repped,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who explained that things in the April 19 spring game are watered down, particularly on defense. “This is our last extensive live work, really, with no-holds barred.”

Everything in the scheme, hopefully, will get on film.

Whittingham said the scrimmage, set for 10 a.m.-noon and open to the public, will be similar to the one on April 4 — more than 100 reps and stalwarts such as Brian Blechen and Nate Orchard not participating for precautionary reasons, allowing coaches to get another good look at others.

“It’s more of the same,” Whittingham said.

QUARTERBACK QUESTIONS: When asked if there was a chance that No. 4 quarterback Brandon Cox might switch positions, Whittingham was a bit evasive — and with good reason, as there are still opportunities to shake up the pecking order as front-runner Travis Wilson, Conner Manning and Adam Schulz also compete for the job in camp.

“There’s a lot of possibilities,” Whittingham said. “We’ll talk about all those after spring amongst ourselves, obviously. But there’s got to be some moves that are made.”

Whittingham noted that the shift of Micah Thomas to wide receiver, earlier in camp, is one of them.

“There’s going to be some change at that position. But we’re not ready to make any determinations yet. Like I said, we’ve got a big scrimmage on Saturday to look at them and a little bit more live work on Tuesday,” Whittingham said. “And then for the quarterbacks, the spring game is very valuable in decision-making and how you operate and move the chains and how you move the team down the field.

“So there’s several more evaluations to be made before we make those hard-and-fast decisions,” he continued.

HIGH ON HILL: Whittingham had kind things to say about longtime assistant Jay Hill. He noted that the new head coach at Weber State is very organized and very personable in recruiting.

“That’s what it’s all about is recruiting. He was an excellent recruiter for us, brought in many, many good players to this program,” Whittingham said. “He’s a hard worker, got a great work ethic, and so my guess is he’s going to do very well up there.”

BACK TO TACKLE: After seeing a lot of time at left guard this spring, junior Jeremiah Poutasi is back at left tackle on the latest depth chart. Poutasi, who was slowed by a knee injury last season, has shed more than 20 pounds. The 6-foot-6 lineman now weighs around 325.

Whittingham noted that Poutasi is a lot like former Utes Zane Beadles and Tony Bergstrom, guys who played tackle at Utah and switched to guard in the NFL.

“I see him in that exact same mold,” Whittingham said.

MOVING MARCUS: Injuries to Jacoby Hale and Gionni Paul have left the Utes thin at linebacker. Running back Marcus Sanders-Williams, a 5-foot-11, 222-pound sophomore from Las Vegas, readily accepted a request to help fill the void. He’ll spend the rest of spring ball seeing if it’s a good fit.

“His bottom-line answer was: ‘I’ll do whatever is best for the team,’” said Utah running backs coach Dennis Erickson, who noted that Sanders-Williams is physical, strong and fast. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up being a good linebacker. But we’ve got to find out if he can help us. If he can help us, that’s great. If he can’t, he can always move back.”

Sanders-Williams, meanwhile, is eager to fill whatever role is asked of him.

“If they need me to go over to defense, I’ll go over to defense and do my thing,” he said.

RUNNIN’ UTES: Erickson said the top three running backs in camp all do different things and that’s important. Erickson noted that junior Bubba Poole is the most versatile in terms of pass protection and running routes. He added that junior Devontae Booker brings quickness, cutting and physicality, while redshirt freshman Troy McCormick has burning speed.

“I’m happy with where they’re at,” Erickson said. “They’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”

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