Navy's explosive offense already has Utah's attention — even if a projected Poinsettia Bowl matchup may not be official until Sunday.

The Utes spent 20 minutes of practice time Friday laying the foundation to defend an option attack that has powered the Midshipmen to averages of 458.3 yards and 40.1 points per game.

"It's such a different animal," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It's much like the Air Force of old and so it requires extra time, obviously. We got started today in the event (Navy) is our opponent."

The Midshipmen, he added, are very good.

"This is an explosive team," Whittingham noted. "They force you to play assignment football."

It's nothing new for the Utes, who faced Fisher DeBerry's Air Force teams on an annual basis.

Navy (7-4) closes out its regular season today against Army.

"We'll be watching that with interest," said Whittingham, who explained that it'll be a busy day with practice and recruiting also on the docket.

The biggest thing this weekend, however, will be getting the bowl situation settled.

"We're excited to find out for certain. It's all speculation to this point, but pretty solid speculation," Whittingham said. "But it'll be nice when Sunday comes and we know for certain what's going on."

BOWL PRACTICES: The Utes will practice again this morning at the Spence Eccles Field House. This week's sessions have featured a lot of conditioning work for the travel squad and a lot of reps for the developmental unit.

The latter is huge, Whittingham said.

"You can't put a value on it," he noted. "It's like having two springs."

NO DISTRACTION: Whittingham doesn't think reports that Navy coach Paul Johnson may be headed for SMU will distract the Midshipmen and their bowl preparations.

"I know one thing. He's a heckuva coach and there's probably several schools that he's on their list," said Whittingham, who added that the Navy players are too disciplined and tough to be distracted by the reports.

COACHING MOVES: Whittingham is hopeful that he'll be able to keep his staff intact despite the high number of coaching staff changes across the country.

"That's always a concern — especially when you have some success," Whittingham said. "But it's part of the game and you hope for the best."

In three years at the helm, Whittingham has lost just one assistant coach to another program.

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said cornerback Sean Smith has a sore shoulder after getting it "dinged" in the BYU game ... Defensive tackle Gabe Long, who also has a sore shoulder, won't resume full practices until after next week ... Quarterback Brian Johnson is also being held out of practices to rest an ailing shoulder. He'll be re-evaluated next week and could be throwing again as early as Wednesday.

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