Utes practice Tuesday looked more like a running back highlight reel session.
Putting on full pads and going live for the first time, Utah's running backs looked right at home. Whether it was Troy McCormick finding a seam right up the middle of the field, to Bubba Poole beating out the defense on a sweep, to Devontae Booker spinning his way out of a tackle for a loss and running up the other side of the gridiron.
Dennis Erickson looked pretty satisfied with the production of his backs, particularly the ones at the top of the depth chart.
"There were a lot of good plays to be run, but look at our group," he said. "Bubba's better than he was a year ago. Troy is doing well. Devontae, who took a year to get here, has looked very impressive. I'm real happy with our guys today."
The trio were the standouts for the first day of what some players call "real football." Running the offense swiftly was easy for a unit that has been working with 20-second playclocks. After the first week, when the offense took a penalty whenever they didn't get the snap off in 20 seconds, there was plenty of time this week with 34.
Each running back fills his own particular niche, Erickson said. McCormick is smaller but has speed to take the ball outside or catch passes out of the backfield. Poole is a cross between shifty and physical that has versatility, including his pass blocking. Booker is the one-cut-and-run back, and he made a lot out of tight creases on Tuesday.
It would go a long way this fall if the running game can be reliable for the Utes offense.
"I think we're making drastic improvement every day, especially today," Poole said. "I think we look real good. Complete difference between this week and last week."
OFFENSIVE HIGHLIGHT • While the running backs each had their moments, give this one to Delshawn McClellon. The sophomore receiver caught a Conner Manning pass at the sideline, spun out of a tackle and walked a tighrope a few more yards into the end zone in a team red zone drill. It was one of many moments when the offense had a chance to celebrate on Tuesday.
STANDOUT(S) • While all the running backs looked good, Devontae Booker looked like a bonafide star on Tuesday. He has a knack for coming out clean from a tangle of bodies. He doesn't need much of a hole to cut through and get moving to the next level. Kyle Whittingham said Booker looked great "relative to the time he's been here."
KEEP AN EYE ON • Tempo. The offense has taken well to the speed Dave Christensen wants to run his offense. Even the Utes' biggest offensive linemen kept their stamina from the beginning of practice to the final 11-on-11 session. The defensive front is a little thin for the spring without a few key players, so it might be a little tougher for them to keep up, and Whittingham said the coaching staff expects this.
QUOTE OF THE DAY • "Quarterback depth. We've got to get that defined a little bit - well, not a little bit but a lot - so we know who we're going to sink the reps to in the fall. That's really the No. 1 priority of any position group." Kyle Whittingham on the QBs.
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