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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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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tavaris Williams (8) runs with the ball, during the University of Utah football practice, Saturday, August 9, 2014
Utah football notes: Thompson shows downfield passing chops Saturday

To paraphrase a popular sentiment on Tribune comments, Twitter and local radio, Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson can’t throw more than 10 yards downfield.

Sorry, popular sentiment, but you’re wrong.

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Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has said that Travis Wilson is the better thrower of the two quarterbacks, but both threw the ball accurately during the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s early practice, and Thompson may have had the day’s best toss: a 30-yard in-stride throw to well-covered sophomore Dominique Hatfield, who caught it and tapped a foot down on the left sideline.

That Thompson hasn’t gone deep very often may have more to do with Utah’s offensive strategy than the limitations of his arm.

"The offense has been simplified in a lot of respects in the throw game," Whittingham said Saturday morning. "The ball’s coming out quicker, and the routes are designed for more quick-gain stuff."

Many of those "quick-gain" throws are coming when a run play has been called, but the quarterback doesn’t like the look of the defense, Whittingham said.

Wilson had highlights of his own in the first of two Saturday practices, to include a rollout, across-his-body throw to Westlee Tonga (an apparent favorite target of his) across the middle. Redshirt freshman Conner Manning also pump-faked and found a wide-open Kenric Young for a long touchdown.

***

Carter’s boot » Utah’s No. 1 free and strong safeties, Tevin Carter and Brian Blechen, were given the day off Saturday. Notably, Carter donned the boot that fans saw him wear all spring while recovering from a foot injury.

The boot is a precaution, Whittingham said, and he hopes it will be off Monday.

"We don’t want to wear them out. Tevin’s coming off a surgery and Blechen has had the chronic problem with the knee, so we give them the day off, it gives those younger safeties the chance to progress and play, and they did a nice job."

Whittingham spotlighted freshmen Marcus Williams and Andre Godfrey, in particular. Williams — one of the team’s best athletes — will likely be a free safety, and Godfrey, more of a physical presence, will likely be a strong safety.

***

Scott rocked » Junior wideout Kenneth Scott wore a yellow jersey to indicate no-contact on Saturday, but defensive lineman Jason Fanaika was seeing red.

When Scott caught a pass and turned toward the middle of the field, the 270-pounder leveled Scott — who dusted himself off and returned to his feet without any major delay.

"Sometimes you have a little bit of a brain lock, and don’t do the right thing on defense, but he’s alright," Whittingham said.

In case you missed it, as maybe Fanaika did, Scott and senior Dres Anderson are considered proven and are not expected to be "live" very often this fall.

***

Walk-on reward » Junior defensive tackle Clint Shepard got some good news a couple days ago.

He’ll no longer have to pay his own way.

Whittingham said the 276-pound Shepard, a West Valley native, was the first of three or four return walk-ons who will be awarded scholarships throughout fall camp.

He called Shepard’s financial aid, "very well deserved"

"He’s been with us for a couple years now. Hard worker. Got himself in the weight room this summer and put on the weight we needed him to, had done everything we asked of him."

Shepard is one of the team’s strongest players, benching 225 pounds 40 times during summer tests.

***

O’Bannon ruling » Whittingham said after practice that he was aware of a federal judge’s ruling for the plaintiffs in a landmark case against the NCAA — a ruling that could pave the way for revenue-sport athletes to receive full cost-of-attendance stipends and deferred compensation from use of their likeness — but said he just doesn’t know all that much about the implications yet.

When he does, coaches will sit down with the players and talk about it, he said.

"As soon as everything is defined and detailed, absolutely we’ll let them know what the situation is and what they can expect."

***

Wallace wows » After golfing for the first installment of Utah’s so-dubbed, Camp Kyle Olympics Utah wheeled a cage out to the edge of the infield for a home run derby at the end of Saturday’s morning session.

As soon as the competition was announced, players started asking if Wallace Gonzalez — a freshman tight end recently removed from three years in the Houston Astros organization — would be allowed to compete.

He was:

"We were serving them up and he did not disappoint," Whittingham said. "He is as advertised on the diamond."

Besides Gonzalez’s seven moonshots, Fanaika and Manning were the only others to go yard (or three-quarters yard, more accurately).

***

Highlights » Andy Phillips, two days after uncharacteristically missing a couple of kicks, was sharp on Friday and then drilled a 50-yarder and then a 35-yarder to end a two-minute drill at the end of practice Saturday. Snaps again appeared to be on point from snapper Chase Dominguez, the culprit on one Phillips miss Thursday.

Standouts » Hatfield made a pair of nice grabs on Thompson throws. Besides the aforementioned sideline snatch, he caught a throw at his knees across the middle and kept his balance for a few yards after the catch.

Position spotlight » For whatever it’s worth, Bubba Poole got the bulk of the carries in live work at the end of practice. You might theorize that was due to a fumble by Devontae Booker on Friday, but then how do you explain the lack of carries for Troy McCormick, whose 50-plus yard dash was Friday’s most exciting play? Maybe you don’t explain it, and you chalk it up to a small sample size. Anyway, Poole was effective and rumbled and tumbled into the end zone for one short-yardage touchdown.

Quote of the day » "Drug test that guy!" — Whittingham, ending Wallace Gonzalez’s turn in the home run derby and returning passers-by east of the outfield fence to the safety they previously enjoyed.

— Matthew Piper

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper



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