There will be very little fanfare when the University of Utah opens spring football practice this afternoon.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham insists it'll be business as usual. The Utes, he explained, are very systematic in their approach.

As such, today's practice — the first of 15 spring sessions — is simply the next step in a process.

"It's that time of year," said Whittingham, who explained that Utah breaks the year up into quarters — winter conditioning is the first and spring ball the second.

"We had a very good winter conditioning session," said Whittingham. "Now it's spring ball and our guys are ready for that."

The Utes return 55 lettermen and 16 starters from last year's squad that finished 9-4 overall and defeated Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl. They'll practice twice this week before shutting things down for spring break. Practices will resume March 25 and continue three times per week. The Red & White Game will cap things off on April 19 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The cast of participants includes incoming freshman DeVonte Christopher, a quarterback who was the Nevada Player of the Year last season for Canyon Springs High School. He signed with the Utes in February but graduated early and is already enrolled at the U.

Christopher joins a mix of quarterbacks that includes returning starter Brian Johnson, sophomore backup Corbin Louks and redshirt sophomore Chad Manis.

Johnson will be eased into spring ball after offseason surgery to remove scar tissue from an injury to his throwing shoulder last season. Whittingham said the senior's participation in spring ball will likely increase after the break.

Tailback Matt Asiata (leg), wide receiver Brent Casteel (knee) and safety Robert Johnson (shoulder) are also not expected to jump back in full bore.

Whittingham said starting defensive end Paul Kruger, who was stabbed in an offseason incident in Salt Lake City, is "doing extremely well." However, coaches plan to be extremely cautious with him to avoid any setbacks.

Defensive back Elijah Wesson and linebacker Tatum Drecksel will miss spring ball with ankle injuries. Tight end Dallin Rogers is also out. He left the team to serve an LDS Church mission.

On the other hand, junior college transfer Damilyn Tanner and freshman Reggie Topps, defensive backs who originally signed with Utah in 2007, enrolled in school last semester and will participate in spring drills.

All sessions are open to the public.

Utah spring football schedule

All practices and scrimmages are open to the public.

Date ... Time ... Location

March 11 ... 3-5 p.m. (no pads) ... Practice fields

March 13 ... 3-5 p.m. (no pads) ... Practice fields

March 25 ... 3-5 p.m. (no tackle) ... Practice fields

March 27 ... 3-5 p.m. (tackle) ... Practice fields

March 29 ... 10 a.m.-noon (tackle) ... Practice fields

April 1 ... 3-5 p.m. (tackle) ... Practice fields

April 3 ... 3-5 p.m. (no tackle) ... Practice fields

April 5 ... 10 a.m.-noon (scrimmage) ... Practice fields

April 8 ... 3-5 p.m. (tackle) ... Practice fields

April 10 ... 3-5 p.m. (no tackle) ... Practice fields

April 12 ... 9-11 a.m. (scrimmage) ... Stadium

April 15 ... 3-5 p.m. (tackle) ... Practice fields

April 17 ... 3-5 p.m. (no tackle) ... Practice fields

April 18 ... 4:15-5:15 p.m. (no pads) ... Practice fields

April 19 ... 1 p.m. (Red & White Game) ... Stadium

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