The old adage says that the defense is always ahead of the offense in the early part of football camps.
That seemed to be the case at Utah's first scrimmage of fall camp Tuesday morning.
On the other hand it could have just been that there's a more noticeable gap between the Utes' first-team defense and backup offense than between the first-team offense and the backup defense.
Whatever, despite Brian Johnson's 9-of-10 passing performance in limited action, the defense was more impressive, keeping the offense out of the end zone for the most part and sacking backup quarterback Corbin Louks several times (minus-39 yards rushing).
"The first two units played well and we were able to get a lot of young kids some reps," said defensive coordinator Gary Andersen. "I thought their execution looked good on the field and their effort was very good. I would have liked to see some more turnovers we had our hands on the ball a couple of times and couldn't get that done. We stopped the run for the most part and did a good job in third downs."
One of the standouts was defensive end Koa Misi, who has nailed down one of the starting positions on the defensive line. He led the defense with three sacks on the day for minus-16 yards.
"Our defense did a good job today. I think I did all right," Misi said. "I had help from Paul (Kruger) on the other side, pushing the quarterback my way to help me with the sacks. I think we're going to be good this year. It's all coming along well."
Defensive end Derrick Shelby and defensive back Terrell Cole each had a pair of tackles for losses.
"They flew around really well," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It's a fast defense. We've been a fast defense for three or four years and getting faster every year."
D-LINE STARTERS SOLID: One of the big concerns coming into fall camp was the defensive line. However, according to Andersen and Whittingham, the starters are established and the Utes are looking for solid backups.
Paul Kruger and Misi are the defensive ends and Shelby, a redshirt freshman from Texas, is a solid third defensive end. After that there is a gap and Anderson said Christian Cox, a transfer from Southern Utah, and Junior Tui'one, a JC transfer from El Camino, are battling for the fourth spot.
"I really like the first three defensive ends, but we need to find a fourth defensive end," said Anderson said.
On the inside, five players came into camp with shots to start, but senior Greg Newman and junior Kenape Eliapo have nailed down the starting tackle spots. Lei Talamaivao, who was so impressive in the spring, started slow but is improving, while Aaron Tonga and true freshmen David Kruger (Timpanogos) and Sealver Siliga (Copper Hills) are in the mix.
"Inside Kenape and Greg are far and away 1-2," Andersen said. "Lei has come along and his last two days have been his best as a Ute, but Newman has outplayed him and deserves the starting spot."
As for Siliga, Andersen said, "He will not redshirt, he will come in and play for us. He's come in and worked his tail off and lost 30 pounds. For a freshman he's focused and doing a nice job."
QUICK LEARNER: Tevita Stevens, a 6-1, 275-pounder from Hemet High School in California, has been playing as an offensive lineman, but late Monday night, the Ute coaches decided to move him to defense. He ended up playing about half the snaps in Tuesday's scrimmage at defensive tackle and did a nice job, according to Andersen.
"We moved Tevita over about eight hours ago and he came in and played about 40 snaps for us today," Andersen said. "I think he did OK and I'm excited to see what he can do."
INJURY UPDATE: Two players suffered concussions in Tuesday's scrimmage receiver Collin Robinson and safety R.J. Rice but both should be back.
Running back Matt Asiata and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester both sat out Asiata with an ankle sprain and Sylvester with knee tendinitis, but both could have played if it were a real game, according to Whittingham. Both could be back by Thursday.
JC transfer receiver David Reed, who came back Monday after sitting out a couple of days with a groin injury, missed Tuesday's scrimmage because he needed a wisdom tooth extracted Tuesday morning. D-lineman Thor Salanoa, who broke his left hand last week, was back in action Tuesday with a cast on his injured hand.