Throughout the first four days of camp, members of Utah's coaching staff have dropped hints about wanting to get past the NCAA's acclimatization period and "pretend football."

Their wait is over.

After a pair of practices with helmets and shorts, then two with shoulder pads added to the mix, the Utes will don full pads today.

"First day. We'll liven things up and have some live work," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "That's when you really get a feel for what you've got and what guys are able to compete."

Following Thursday's session at the practice fields, Whittingham said he's seeing some of the newcomers "emerge and starting to make their presence felt."

Headlining the cast is wide receiver David Reed. Whittingham said the junior college transfer is "getting better each day." Reed, he added, will become more of a factor as he gets in better shape and learns the system.

Utah's running back group, featuring Darrell Mack, Matt Asiata, Ray Stowers and Eddie Wide, continues to be a strength as well.

Whittingham also noted the play of defensive back Damilyn Tanner and tight end Brad Clifford.

"Good competition," he said while leaving the practice field Thursday. "We've still got a lot of work to do. That's evident. But it was a positive practice, another step forward."

Even so ...

"There's no doubt we need all 25 practices, whatever we have left," Whittingham said.

The Utes open the season Aug. 30 at Michigan.

TASTY TREAT: It's been said that milk does a body good. The same, apparently, can be said of chocolate milk. Citing a scientific study, the Utes are drinking the beverage after workouts.

"Apparently, it's a great recovery drink for after a workout," said Whittingham, who noted that several programs across the nation are doing it. "We're not the pioneers of it by any means but we'll give it a shot. The players, so far, have responded to it."

NEW DUDS: One noticeable difference at camp this year is Utah's new Under Armour practice gear. The offense, defense and quarterbacks are decked out in white, black and red jerseys, respectively.

The transition from Nike, Whittingham said, has been good.

"I think the players like it and that's all that is important," Whittingham said. "We look sharp and hopefully we'll play how we look."

EXTRA POINTS: Tight end Neli A'asa had a successful scope on his knee and is expected to be back on the field in about 10 days. The target date is Monday, April 18. ... Whittingham reiterated that the Aiona Key situation is out of Utah's hands. The wide receiver won't be able to join the Utes until his final junior college grade is posted — this weekend or early next week ... Clifford, a sophomore who played his high school ball at Olympus, was awarded a scholarship on Wednesday.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com