Jacob Wiegand, Deseret News
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham watches his team practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 30, 2018.
It was a clean scrimmage, penalty-free. We will never be completely devoid of penalties, but there were very few. Execution was good on offense, the defense ran to the ball, and assignments were much sounder than they were the scrimmage prior. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham

SALT LAKE CITY — Immediately following this past Saturday’s situational scrimmage, the most important scrimmage of spring football, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham was pleased.

Without looking at the film, his team appeared to have played well, particularly on offense. Penalties were low, execution was high and overall production was not lacking.

Not only that, the defense had, for the most part, done its job after overcoming a sluggish start.

Saturday was "a great work day" for Utah football.

Whittingham reaffirmed that Tuesday afternoon after the Utes returned to the practice field.

“The film showed pretty much what I thought after the scrimmage,” said Whittingham. “It was a clean scrimmage, penalty-free. We will never be completely devoid of penalties, but there were very few. Execution was good on offense, the defense ran to the ball, and assignments were much sounder than they were the scrimmage prior.”

“We made big progress between the scrimmages,” Whittingham said, “very few mental mistakes. That is what you want to see.”

The goal for the Utes in the last week of spring football is to maintain and build on that progression, Whittingham said. The last thing he wants is for his team to lose momentum.

“We don’t want to take a step backward,” Whittingham said. “We are coming off such a positive scrimmage and we don’t want to lose ground.

“Guys need to come out and be focused. Keep working and keep moving forward. We get two more opportunities to do that with practice on Thursday and the spring game on Saturday. We need to be dialed in for both of them.”

SPRING STANDOUTS: When asked about player movement on the roster, Whittingham singled out five or six different athletes he believes have made moves this spring.

First among that group is defensive back Tareke Lewis. A transfer from Riverside Community College, the 6-foot 170-pound defender has made himself a vital part of a secondary Whittingham believes is among the strongest on defense.

“Tareke Lewis has been really good at the nickel spot, backing up Javelin Guidry,” said Whittingham. “He is in his first year with us, we had to wait for a year for him to get here, and he is a guy with tremendous ability.”

Another player of note in the secondary is Josh Nurse, who is making the transition to corner.

“Josh Nurse has been a big positive in his transition to corner. He has really taken to that,” said Whittingham.

Whittingham also singled out junior wide receiver Siaosi Mariner, noting that Mariner has become one of the leaders of a receivers group that, according to quarterback Tyler Huntley, has been great.

“Siaosi Mariner has become one of the real leaders at the receiver group,” said Whittingham. “He has really started to assert himself and is playing his best football.

“There have been a half dozen guys that have had very positive springs, as well as a bunch of other guys, but five or six have stood out.”

EVERY BIT HELPS: Huntley, who according to Whittingham has had an excellent spring, along with fellow quarterbacks Jason Shelley and Jack Tuttle, credited experience, specifically within offensive coordinator Troy Taylor’s system, for much of his progression.

“Experience and being around the offense for a long time, just knowing where I am going with the ball, knowing what I’m seeing out there and being able to see it quickly. That has played a major role in my progression,” Huntley said.

The majority of that progress has occurred in the huddle, where Huntley has become a leader on the offense.

As far as the junior signal caller is concerned, his growth as a leader has been a team effort.

“Everybody is working, everybody is getting a feel for what to do. I am just there to help them out,” said Huntley. “We just continue to progress every day we are out here.”

Huntley singled out his receiving corps for their impact, noting that they have been great all spring, despite the loss of Darren Carrington II and others.

“The receivers have been great. They don’t show that we lost a couple of receivers. They have just come out and continued to work every day,” Huntley said.

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