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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah Utes linebacker Gionni Paul (13) rests during spring practice in Salt Lake City Tuesday, March 18, 2014.

DAY 3: The Utes donned pads for the first time this spring at a Saturday morning practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Head coach Kyle Whittingham said the defense is ahead of the offense — as is almost always the case this time of the year, he explained, particularly when some new things are being done offensively.

“So it’ll take some time for the offense to get up to speed. That was what we expected going in,” Whittingham said. “The tempo is starting to come around. It’s still not where it needs to be, but there’s a lot of ‘want-to’ with the players, which is the key. They’re trying hard.”

STANDOUTS: Whittingham noted the performances of running backs Troy McCormick and Devontae Booker.

“Those two guys are starting to emerge a little bit — as much as you can in three days and one day in gear,” Whittingham said.

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The defense, as a whole, also drew praise for playing with a lot of passion and a lot of energy. Whittingham said linebacker Gionni Paul is becoming the leader of the group. He also mentioned that it’s good to have safety Brian Blechen back and credited the senior for making some plays. Eric Rowe drew recognition as well in the secondary.

NEXT UP: The Utes resume camp Tuesday on the practice field behind the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center from 3-5 p.m. The session is open to the public.

Email: dirk@desnews.cocm

Twitter: @DirkFacer