The sun shone Thursday, and the second day of Utah’s spring camp shed a little light on what fans can hope to expect from offensive coordinator Dave Christensen’s spread offense.
Offensive and defensive starters were called out for head-to-head play right out of the gates in an up-tempo practice that saw coaches on both sides of the ball imploring the Utes to play with urgency.
As on Tuesday, it was tough sledding for the offense when matched against the defense, but they showed improvement.
Junior quarterback Travis Wilson seemed to shake some of the cobwebs from his four-month injury hiatus.
"I was throwing the ball a lot better, and we definitely executed things better than Tuesday," he said.
Aside from a pass that was dropped by senior safety/cornerback Eric Rowe, redshirt freshman Conner Manning consistently moved the ball and hit check-down passes when available. New father Brandon Cox also completed some sharp passes rolling out of the pocket, with the redshirt freshman displaying his characteristically smooth lefty motion.
Christensen has thus far proven a strict boss with a low tolerance for inattention. When players are not in the right position, everybody on the field hears about it. But tough love may be what Utah needs, Wilson said.
"He’s definitely going to push us to our limits and he’s going to see how we respond," said Utes quarterback Travis Wilson. "I definitely think that’s going to make us better as a team."
Senior wideout Dres Anderson said it’s to be expected that the defense would have the upper hand in early workouts, given that they’ve been doing the same thing for years. "We’re just trying to get accustomed to the things that we’re doing new," he said. "It’s going to take a minute, but we’ll be good."
On Saturday, the pads come on. Head coach Kyle Whittingham said after practice that he expects to see some separation between the best and the rest.
Running backs coach Dennis Erickson said he’s been please with the play from junior Bubba Poole, redshirt freshman Troy McCormick, junior transfer Devontae Booker and sophomore Marcus Wiliams-Sanders. But that’s too many guys.
"I’ve got to get them separated," he said. "We can’t practice that many guys."
Hinting at a continuation of the running-back-by-committee approach that some fans bemoaned last year, Erickson said he will try to settle on three or four backs who can do different things, to force the defense out of its comfort zone.
OFFENSIVE/DEFENSIVE HIGHLIGHT • Wilson threw a 10-yard out to Anderson that brought the senior receiver diving back toward the sideline for a grab right in front of your favorite Ute football beat reporters. Thanks to senior Davion Orphey’s blanket coverage, it had to be perfect, and it was.
STANDOUTS • Whittingham said the relatively inexperienced cornerback group has been a nice surprise thus far, and senior Wykie Freeman broke up a couple of passes and smothered his marks.
KEEP AN EYE ON • Eric Rowe. Coaches hinted before camp that the senior would see some time at cornerback, and he received two thumbs up from Whittingham after getting his first reps at the position.
QUOTE OF THE DAY • "Day One, the weather was freezing," said Anderson. "I was catching kickoff returns and it felt like I was catching boulders."
— Matthew Piper
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