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Utes have a 'chip on their shoulder,' as they get ready for 2013

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham joked Friday that the Utes not only had a new football building but also a new attitude.

Actually, he wasn't joking.

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The Utes say they are more focused and more determined than ever to have a successful 2013 season.

Two years of losing records in conference play will do that to a team.

Both tight end Jake Murphy and defensive end Trevor Reilly said the Utes have gone through their summer workouts with a "chip on their shoulder."

As a result, the players are better, the chemistry is better and their outlook is better. The impression at media day, at least from Murphy and Reilly, is the Utes are tired of being thought as the newest members of the Pac-12.

Now, they want to be thought of as contenders.

"We've had two years to acclimate, we should be good now," Reilly said.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is always careful not to put a number or finite definition on what a successful season is, but he too acknowledged the time is now for the Utes to start producing.

Whittingham said sitting at home during the bowl season was a "foreign" to the Utes, and it was a feeling they don't want to experience again.

"We are excited about this season," he said. "We know moving into the Pac-12 is a work in progress but we felt we had two outstanding recruiting classes back to back."

Bringing in new blood will surely help the Utes, but Whittingham said a successful season hinges on having a healthy quarterback more than anything else.

Travis Wilson went 3-4 as a starter last year after replacing the injured Jordan Wynn. He was pushed during the spring by the other quarterbacks, but he is the guy for now, Whittingham said.

"It's his job to lose," he said.

Positions that will be under scrutiny when camp starts Aug. 5 include the running back spot as well as the corners.

There, Justin Thomas, Davion Orphey and Keith McGill are the leading candidates for starting roles, but Whittingham said there needs to be more separation between the would-be starters and backups.

"That is the biggest question mark on the team, followed closely by the specialists," he said. "We have to rebuild at both spots. We are short on experience and we have some talented players competing at those spots, but the learning curve is going to be fast. We have to bring them up to speed quickly."

Couple other news and notes from media day:

Schedule talk: Playing the Utah and BYU game at the end of the regular season might be an ideal situation for fans, but it isn't one the Pac-12 conference is ready to buy into every year just yet, Scott said Friday at the league's media day.

Utah's game against BYU for the 2018 season will be played at the end of the year, just as it was before the Utes joined the Pac-12, but Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said he still preferred the game to be played in the first three weeks of the year when possible.

The reason the 2018 game was moved was due to a scheduling quirk that prevented any of the Pac-12 teams from having to play 12 games in a row without a bye.

Possible no shows: Two junior college transfers the Utes signed as part of their 2013 class may not be with the Utes when they open camp on Aug. 5.

Tevin Carter, a 6-1 defensive back, and Devontae Booker, a 5-foot-11 running back, are both still taking care of academic issues.

It's likely Booker will redshirt if he arrives late since the Utes are deep at the position.

You again: Utah tight end Jake Murphy said he enjoyed the Pac-12 festivities, particularly since he got a chance to catch up with childhood friend Xavier Su'a-Filo, who is a junior offensive lineman for UCLA.

"It was good to see him again go out with the rest of the players," he said. "We've had a lot of fun."

- Lya Wodraska

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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