Utah Football: Utes' scrimmage highlights depth at running back
Junior college transfer James Poole might not know Utah's offense inside and out, but the 6-foot, 187-pound sophomore does know football. His natural instincts helped him stand out in Utah's scrimmage Thursday.
Poole rushed 10 times for 65 yards to be one of the offensive standouts in the session.
Proven running back John White sat out the practice, as did defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
Poole, who joined the Utes late after transferring from Saddleback College, is behind Kelvin York, Jarrell Oliver and Lucky Radley in the battle for a backup role to White.
However, he is making a good impression on Utah's coaches with the touches he is getting.
"He is getting better every day, and he is a guy who made some plays and showed in a positive way today," Utah offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. "He has a lot of natural abilities to make some plays."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the biggest obstacles for Poole to overcome is the unfamiliarity with the offense and his weight.
"He isn't big enough right now. We need to get him around 200 pounds, and hopefully that can happen in the next three or four weeks," he said. "He has good hands and can be a receiver out of the backfield and runs good routes. He has some shiftiness to him."
York, a 5-foot-11, 223-pound junior out of Fullerton College, rushed eight times for 41 yards and Oliver rushed six times for 29 yards and a touchdown. Radley, a sophomore, had 11 carries for 13 yards and a touchdown.
The depth at running back has the Utes feeling good about that position. It's another story, though, for the offensive line which continues to be what Whittingham calls a "work in progress."
Miles Mason, who is penciled in as the starting right tackle, is sidelined with a high ankle sprain, and backup center Vyncent Jones is out with a hamstring pull.
Whittingham believes both should be ready for the season opener against Northern Colorado.
Utah's coaches are putting a positive spin on the injuries, noting that others now have a chance to step up, but the injuries also have exposed how thin the Utes are at the tackle position.
Kala Friel, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound freshman out of Hawaii, has improved the most, but Whittingham said the Utes are continuing to look for options at the spot.
Starting quarterback Jordan Wynn was 8 of 16 for 123 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Senior Luke Matthews had four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown, and DeVonte Christopher had two catches for 23 yards and a touchdown.
Backup quarterback Jon Hays was 2 of 5 for 55 yards, and freshman Travis Wilson was 6 of 7 for 65 yards.
The defense was credited for seven sacks and eight pass breakups.