A Saturday in early April without spring football?

That's exactly what the University of Utah has in store for this weekend. Because of a school conflict involving a dozen players — a biology class trip to Price to study dinosaurs — the Utes will hold their second scrimmage of the spring today (3 p.m., Rice-Eccles Stadium) instead of Saturday.

"It'll give them a nice break," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "They've been grinding pretty hard now. It'll be a nice break and freshen them up for that last week."

Before their day off, however, the Utes have a scrimmage that Whittingham considers "extremely critical" — even if a lot of the No. 1s won't be getting a lot of live work.

The 70-80 play scrimmage will be a lot like the one last Saturday except for a few twists. The additions include scenarios where the offense is backed up and a variety of special teams situations.

Many projected starters, including Brian Johnson, Brent Casteel, Darrell Mack, Matt Asiata, Kenape Eliapo, Paul Kruger, Koa Misi, Stevenson Sylvester, Mike Wright, Robert Johnson and Joe Dale, are once again expected to be limited to "thud" status — meaning they won't be involved in any tackling to the ground.

With so many players being held back a bit for a variety of precautionary reasons, Whittingham acknowledged it's a good time for others to step up and shine. Wide receiver and defensive tackle, he added, are positions where opportunities are plentiful this spring.

In last week's scrimmage, walk-on Collin Robinson led all receivers with five catches. Other notable performances on offense came from quarterback Corbin Louks and running back Eddie Wide III. Jereme Brooks and Bradon Godfrey had touchdown receptions.

On defense, sophomore tackle Lei Talamaivao continued an impressive spring with two sacks. Cornerback Brandon Burton picked off two passes and Chaz Walker made a pair of stops in the backfield.

Senior tackle Aaron Tonga recovered a fumble.

Louie Sakoda and Ben Vroman had good outings kicking the ball.

With camp entering its final week, Whittingham said the defense has been flying around well and that the offense is coming along.

EXTRA POINTS: All practices and scrimmages are open to the public ... The Utes will practice Tuesday, Thursday and Friday next week before concluding spring ball with the annual Red & White Game Saturday at 1 p.m. ... Season tickets are now on sale at www.utahutes.com.

E-mail: dirk@desnews.com