SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said there’s a “laundry list” of things for the Utes to get done in Tuesday morning’s scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The top priority, he explained, is to get a great evaluation on the quarterbacks. Juniors Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson are currently getting the most reps. Redshirt freshmen Conner Manning and Brandon Cox are next in line.
“That’s job one — is to continue to sort that out,” Whittingham said. “This will be our extensive look and body of work to get that done.”
Whittingham also mentioned the tempo of the offense, expressing a desire to see the Utes play fast enough in a game-like situation. Other pressing matters, he identified, involve solidifying the right side of the offensive line, getting a gauge on where the defense is on tackling (since there hasn’t been a lot of live work in camp thus far), and finding out more about the young guys.
The scrimmage will be a combination of situations (four-minute offense, two-minute offense, coming out offense) and a lot of just playing football. Whittingham estimated the Utes will run 70-100 plays and try to get everybody on tape.
Several players, however, may be held out for precautionary reasons.
All preseason camp practices and scrimmages are closed to the public.
TOUGH TIMES: The second week of camp features three double days and a pair of scrimmages.
“These are what I always say are the dog days of fall camp — when the newness of fall camp has completely worn off,” Whittingham said. “There’s still a lot of practices left and you’re right in the middle of it. You do find out who’s got the will and the determination to get through it and who kind of wilts when the going gets tough.”
SORTING IT OUT: Whittingham offered a little insight into the competition between Wilson and Thompson.
“It’s not quite apples and oranges, but it's different,” Whittingham said. “If Kendal is the guy, then the offense will have a facelift to accentuate what he does, and if Travis is the guy, we’ll go in that direction.”
NEUHEISEL’S TAKE: Former college football coach Rick Neuheisel of the Pac-12 Networks was on hand for the morning practice and took note of offensive weapons like Kaelin Clay, Delshawn McClellon, Kenneth Scott, Dres Anderson and Dominique Hatfield.
“Dave Christensen’s offense wants to move fast. Certainly it helps when there’s great skill,” Neuheisel said before going over the personnel. “ To play up-tempo you’ve got to have numbers and you have to have guys that can do things in space. It looks as if they’ve got that.”
SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED: When it comes to his job, Whittingham said the opportunity to award scholarships to deserving walk-ons — many he explained have busted their butts for one, two of three years — may be as good as it gets. The team appreciates it as well. Whittingham said the reaction to news of scholarship awards at meetings is very animated.
Initial walk-ons now on scholarship this fall include kicker Andy Phillips, offensive lineman Nick Nowakowski, as well as defensive linemen Jason Fanaika and Clint Shepard.
“It’s great, and it’s not something that we offer. They earn it,” said Whittingham, who may award one or two more scholarships before camp is complete.
MUSS DISCOVERY: Senior wide receiver Ryan Petersen, who was the MVP of the past two MUSS spring flag football games, has joined the Utes as a walk-on.
“He’s fast, he’s got quickness to him, and so we invited him out,” Whittingham said. “He’s doing a nice job and he may show up on special teams. We’ll see what happens.”
Whittingham noted that Petersen is a “good kid” and a “feel good story coming out of the MUSS.” Whittingham added that Petersen has been “head and shoulders” above everyone else in the annual flag football game over the past three years.
Petersen participates in club/intramural baseball, basketball and volleyball. He has also been on a men’s squad that has practiced against the women’s basketball team.
FEAR THE BEARD: Senior safety Brian Blechen is sporting a lengthy beard these days.
“It’s a beard for life,” he said. “No. No. We’ll see. I’m going to keep it for a little bit. Maybe if I get sick of it I’ll cut it during the season.”
When asked what inspired the growth, Blechen mentioned things like being a little tired of shaving and getting old before admitting that it had something to do with former teammate Trevor Reilly, who is now with the NFL’s New York Jets.
“Trevor told me that I couldn’t get a bigger beard than him,” Blechen said. “So I told him I'm going to have to outdo him.”
EXTRA POINTS: True freshman nose tackle Lowell Lotulelei is a co-starter on the latest depth chart. Four other newcomers are listed as backups this week — right tackle Jackson Barton, strong safety Andre Godfrey, cornerback Travonne Hobbs and free safety Marcus Williams. Senior defensive end Nate Orchard is now on the right side after three seasons as the starter on the left. Sophomore Hunter Dimick and Fanaika are the co-starters at left end. Offensive line coach Jim Harding said if the season began today there would be eight to nine guys he would feel comfortable putting into a game. He would ultimately like to get to 10. Whittingham said that sophomore Brian Allen is the next safety up behind seniors Brian Blechen and Tevin Carter. Defensive end Hayden Clegg caught two balls that came out of a Jugs machine at high speed to win the latest “Training Camp Olympics” event.