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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Freshman continues to impress Utah coaches

Freshman Troy McCormick continues to impress Utah's coaches with his hands and will "figure in this year somewhere," according to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.

Whittingham noted Wednesday was the third straight good day for McCormick, a 5-9, 165-pound freshman out of Katy, Texas.

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It's likely McCormick will play a slot role for the Utes and could return kickoffs, Whittingham said.

McCormick's rise isn't putting any pressure on returning running back Kelvin York, who has separated himself from the others, Whittingham said.

"It's a matter of him staying healthy, he has to be durable," Whittingham said of York.

Other notes from Wednesday:

*It was the first day for the Utes in pads and Whittingham liked the physicality he saw

*Freshman quarterback Micah Thomas returned to play after sitting out Tuesday's session with a pulled hamstring but nickel back Joseph Smith was sidelined with a hamstring pull along with receiver Andre Lewis.

"I guess it is the injury of the year," Whittingham said.

The Utes could redshirt Lewis, but Whittingham said he isn't ready to make such a decision just yet.

*With Lewis out, veterans Anthony Denham and Sean Fitzgerald are locked in a battle for the third spot.

*JC transfer Tevin Carter is several weeks away from joining the team in the best scenario said Whittingham. With his academic issues, the Utes have moved Reshawn Hooker from linebacker to safety.

"We have to have a plan 'B'," Whittingham said.

Whittingham said Hooker, a 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore, may have to drop some weight to play the position.

Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, now an analyst for the Pac-12 Networks, observed Wednesday's practice and interviewed coaches and players for a training camp series airing this week. The show that focuses on Utah will run Friday at 8 p.m.

Neuheisel said it will take longer than many think for Utah to become a contender in the Pac-12.

"This is the third day of practice, what the NCAA refers to as an acclimation period," Neuheisel said. "Utah is going through an acclimation period too."

He added he believes the Utes have a really good chance of making it to a bowl game.

"I think they have the right parts in place, it just takes perseverance for it to pay off," he said.

"it would be great for them to get off to a good start with the first four games," he said. "If they win the state of Utah, that would be huge and appease the natives."

- 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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