Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the Utes "got a lot of good work" in Thursday at the practice fields.

The first full day of game preparation for the Aug. 30 season-opener at Michigan went well. The Utes incorporated a lot of live work while facing the scout team in various situations.

Near the end of practice, they did so with crowd noise blaring over speakers near the field — an attempt to replicate what's expected at Michigan Stadium.

"It gives you a taste of it. You can't replicate it exactly, obviously, but it does give you a game-day atmosphere to some extent," Whittingham said. "You do the best you can do. I wish we could get 111,000 people to surround practice, but it isn't going to happen. So that's the next best thing."

Utah's fall practices, it should be noted, are closed to the public and open only to the media.

BACK TO QB: The DeVonte Christopher experiment has been put on "the back burner." After a couple of days of showcasing his athleticism as a wide receiver, the true freshman is back to his natural position of quarterback. He was running the scout-team offense on Thursday.

"We got a good look at him for three or four days there. He's a tremendous athlete. He could play receiver if that's what we need him to do," Whittingham said. "But he's a quarterback first and foremost. So we're still in the process of deliberation. But my guess is that he's going to end up as a redshirt quarterback this year."

LOUIE'S A-OK: The redness and swelling on kicker/punter Louie Sakoda's calf has subsided significantly and the All-American returned to practice. The senior missed Wednesday's scrimmage with what team trainers suspected might have been a spider bite.

"I don't know what it was," Whittingham said. "But he's all better. He kicked very well today and that's all that matters."

GROUND GAME: Whittingham noted that running backs Darrell Mack and Matt Asiata should be 100 percent healthy by the season opener. Asiata, who was slowed by an ankle sprain in camp, estimate his recovery at 93 percent.

"I feel it's more like 93.6 or 93.7," Whittingham joked. "He's looking good, getting better each day."

Mack, who was kept out of practice for a few days for precautionary reasons with an irritated Achilles, wound up winning the battle for the starting job.

Both players, however, will play against Michigan.

"It's somewhat irrelevant who takes the first snap of the game," Whittingham said. "Because they're both going to get their reps and their carries."

LOST KEY: The Utes are still waiting for wide receiver Aiona Key's arrival in camp. The junior college transfer is still waiting for a final grade to be posted.

"Nothing new," Whittingham said. "The grade is in the process of getting where it needs to get."

There's still a chance Key could be play against Michigan, he added, but "the clock is ticking" and the opportunity to be a factor in the season-opener "lessens each day."


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com