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Utah football notes: Utes picking up the tempo

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2015 12:26 p.m. MDT

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

SALT LAKE CITY — Tempo continues to be a hot topic with the Utah Utes. After last Saturday’s scrimmage, head coach Kyle Whittingham said they weren’t playing nearly fast enough.

This week, things have changed.

On Tuesday, Whittingham said the offensive tempo in practice was better.

“For the first time all spring we’re close to where we need to be tempo-wise,” he acknowledged.

Even so, Whittingham said it still wasn’t as good as it needs to be on a down-by-down basis by the time the season rolls around. There were some segments, however, when he started to see what they’re looking for under new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen.

Redshirt freshman Salesi Uhatafe during a football scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday, April 12, 2014,  in Salt Lake City.   (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Redshirt freshman Salesi Uhatafe during a football scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

The trend continued on Thursday.

“It was just as good today, if not better than Tuesday, and hopefully in the (Red-White) Game Saturday it will be good and then come fall camp we’ve got to keep pushing it,” Whittingham said. “It’s a constant challenge to keep pushing tempo.”

Quarterback Conner Manning noted the increased emphasis on tempo. He said things were better when the Utes opened the final week of camp.

“We’ve still got a long ways to go,” Manning said. “But I feel like over the summer we’ll practice going fast and by fall we’ll definitely be ready to go.”

LEADER OF THE PACK: Junior running back Bubba Poole, who led the Utes with 607 yards rushing last season, has maintained his spot on top of the depth chart throughout the spring despite being pushed by Devontae Booker and Troy McCormick.

Utah Utes defensive back Brian Blechen (4)  works out during spring practice in Salt Lake City  Tuesday, March 18, 2014.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Utes defensive back Brian Blechen (4) works out during spring practice in Salt Lake City Tuesday, March 18, 2014. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

“It’s tough competition,” said Poole, who added that he looks at being a starter as just a title. “I know what it feels like to be chasing that spot last year battling with Kelvin (York) and Karl (Williams) and that’s what I tell myself every day — like I’m chasing a spot myself.”

Poole noted that the guys in this spring’s running back group all bring different things to the table.

“They make me better and I know I make them better as well,” he said. “We’re out there competing, and we’re a very close group.”

STRONG ADDITION: New offensive line coach Jim Harding is already making an impact with the Utes.

“He’s doing a great job. The players have really responded to him,” Whittingham said. “They’ve developed a feel for his coaching style and what his expectations are and they’re responding. So it’s good to see.”

Kenneth Scott, left, and Travis Wilson talk before a University of Utah Football scrimmage in Salt Lake City, Friday, April 4, 2014. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Kenneth Scott, left, and Travis Wilson talk before a University of Utah Football scrimmage in Salt Lake City, Friday, April 4, 2014. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham announced that quarterbacks Manning, Adam Schulz and Brandon Cox will be live for tackles in Saturday’s spring game. … The Utes had only three safeties in practice Thursday. Whittingham said that former Wyoming quarterback Jason Thompson may take some snaps at safety in the Red-White contest. … Utah’s spring finale will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks at 1 p.m.

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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