Utah football camp round-up: Tribe’s blessing welcomed by Whittingham, Blechen
The University of Utah sealed a new memorandum of understanding with the Ute Indian Tribe by presenting a signed Utah football helmet signed by Kyle Whittingham.
One hundred and fifty miles away, at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the head football coach was happy to hear that his team will continue to use the Ute name with the blessing of the tribe.
"To be able to get things lined up and everybody on the same page is a big positive," Whittingham said after practice Tuesday. "We’ve heard off and on for the last several years, ‘Are we going to be able to use the circle and feather or are we not?’ Now, hopefully, that’s put to rest at least for the time being. That’s a good thing. That’s part of the heritage of the university and the football program."
Senior linebacker Brian Blechen said he’s been proud to call himself a Ute ever since, as a freshman, he learned about the tribe from a Tribal Member who visited with the team. That happens each fall camp, he said.
"Each year, there’s a new group of freshman that, they’re not really sure what it means," he said. "Especially if they’re not from Utah — you never [knew] what a Ute was growing up."
Blechen said he was excited to learn that there will be a commemorative uniform that the team will wear during November, Native American Heritage Month.
Part of the school’s agreement is also to have Utah athletes visit with youth at the Ute Indian Tribe, and to have proceeds from the commemorative jersey go toward a new Boys & Girls club on the reservation.
OFFENSIVE HIGHLIGHT » Since converting from a QB, Micah Thomas has been fighting to make more plays as a receiver. Perhaps his best moment all spring came Tuesday when he managed to wrangle down a 35-yard pass from Conner Manning in the end zone.
DEFENSIVE HIGHLIGHT » Early on, Marcus Sanders-Williams got attention for picking off a Manning pass and nearly bringing it all the way back. He also had a pass breakup at the line of scrimmage later in practice.
STANDOUT » Dres Anderson can basically earn this nod whenever he wants, but he looked dominant at Rice-Eccles in the afternoon session. From a floater he grabbed over Eric Rowe’s head, to a quick cross he ran about 25 yards after the catch and almost took almost to the end zone, he’s looking like the Utes’ best playmaker on offense. Period.
KEEP AN EYE ON » Offensive effort. Offensive line coach Jim Harding said he felt Saturday’s scrimmage showed that the line had to improve its tempo. Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen’s directives during practice seemed to indicate he felt the whole offense needed to play better after the scrimmage. While receivers have made some nice plays, other fundamentals, such as perimeter blocking, could use more work.
— Kyle Goon and Matthew Piper