Ute Tribe youngsters visit Utah football practice Tuesday
At Tuesday's scrimmage, a small crowd of about two dozen youth, many of them clad in red and black jerseys, sat watching from the south end zone. They had traveled almost three hours by bus to be at Rice-Eccles Stadium that morning
Many of them are on a youth football team called the Utes. But their team doesn't take its name from the U. - the university takes its name from them.
The children and their chaperones represented a small visiting contingent from the Ute Indian Tribe, on a trip organized by the tribe's recreation department. Their presence reflects the agreement between the university and the tribe, which was modified this spring to include more scholarships for college hopefuls from the tribe as well as promoting education about the group's history.
Spokeswoman Bo Chapoose said the Ute Tribe is trying to get its younger members acclimated to the University of Utah in the hopes that some of them will eventually pursue their education in Salt Lake.
"We want them to come to the school and see where everything so they can be comfortable here," she said. "We're trying to promote that open-mindedness and growth through academics. We want to show them what it takes and where they can go if they stay on the right path and keep their grades."
Chapoose added that the agreement between the university and the tribe is seen as a positive development in the Fort Duchesne area where many members live. While controversy lingers over American Indians being used as mascots by any institution, Chapoose said many of the children visiting express pride at watching their tribe being represented by the sports teams at the U.
Many people in the tribe watch the Utes on TV and cheer for the team. Meeting the players up close and personal is a special experience for the children, she said.
After the scrimmage, a few Utes tossed a football around with the kids, who ran about the field.
"Those guys are the reason we're able to wear this on our jersey," lineman Isaac Asiata said. "I have no problem interacting with those kids and seeing their eyes light up. That's probably the biggest and my most favorite thing about being privileged to be in this position. The fact that they look up to me, it's an honor."
Walk-on steps up • The leading receiver from Tuesday's scrimmage wasn't Dres Anderson. It wasn't Kenneth Scott. It wasn't anyone who has ever played in a Division I football game before.
It was Tim Patrick, the spindly 190-pound JuCo walk-on who has seemingly seized a role early on in fall camp. The junior made six catches during practice for 84 yards. The highlight came on a 34-yard reception on a go route.
Patrick is so fresh to the team, he couldn't name the defensive back who was covering him. But it's all about results, which he's getting.
"He did great,"quarterback Travis Wilson said. "He came up big for me in a couple third-down-and-long, fourth-down-and-long catches. I think he's establishing himself as a really good wide receiver, and I know I can count on him when it comes down to some crunch-time situations."
For his part, Patrick isn't concerned how the Utes use him.
"They haven't said anything about roles," he said. "They've said if the ball comes my way, just catch it basically. I'm just trying to be sure-handed and catch it."
The simple approach seems to work best.
Scholarship stress reliever • Getting on scholarship wasn't exactly a surprise for Andy Phillips. His preseason accolades include nomination for the Lou Groza Award and All-America nods. Whittingham had told him the day was coming when he wouldn't have to pay his own way.
When it would happen - well, that was the surprise.
The Utes announced yesterday that Phillips, Jason Fanaika, Clint Shepard and Nick Nowakowski were new scholarship recipients. While Shepard and Nowakowski were shocked and thrilled, Phillips and Fanaika had an inkling they would get it beforehand.
It didn't take away from the moment, however, when Phillips got to sign his scholarship agreement in Whittingham's office.
"It was a really cool moment," he said. "It's almost a way for me to give back even more to the university. I have a lot of stress off my shoulders, so hopefully I can just focus on what I do for the team."
So how was the first day of work on scholarship?
Phillips had a rather quiet scrimmage, only making two extra point attempts. Jon Halliday kicked both of the scrimmage field goals. Phillips said he joked with Whittingham about his limited workload, but the day-to-day variance on his responsibilities reflect how his job might change game-to-game.
"It's nice to go through those motions again of the offense getting close," he said. "Being able to control my emotions and really focusing on being prepared to kick if I'm called upon."
Poole runnings • There's been some moving and shaking in the depth chart at running back, and maybe it shouldn't shock anyone that Bubba Poole, the starter from last season, has emerged as the most reliable threat on the ground.
The big reason? As a vet, he's not quite as prone to errors as Troy McCormick and Devontae Booker, his chief competition.
"He's just consistent," running backs coach Dennis Erickson said. "He does not make mental mistakes. He runs the football, he catches the football, he can protect. He does everything really well. So as long as he stays consistent like that, it's hard to make a move."
Poole had 30 years on nine carries, which trailed McCormick's 40 yards on nine carries. But Poole had a huge advantage: He didn't give up a fumble, and McCormick did. Booker also fumbled on an exchange from Wilson as the Utes drove toward the end zone, ceding an 89-yard return by safety Tevin Carter.
Erickson was not pleased. Booker's fumbles were an issue late last week, which is surprising to Erickson who doesn't consider him a threat to ball security. Whatever is happening, the Utes have to fix it fast.
"I don't know exactly what happened, but we can't fumble," he said. "As a group, we can't fumble. And there were two on the ground."
Dimick domination • In the limited defensive statistics provided after the scrimmage, Hunter Dimick jumps out.
The sophomore compiled a sack (loss of 15 yards), a fumble recovery and a pass break-up. Not bad for one practice of work. And if Travis Wilson had been live on Tuesday, the numbers might have been more impressive: Whittingham claimed Dimick would've had a couple more sacks.
The Utes are looking for a pass rusher to help make up for the loss of Trevor Reilly at defensive end, and Dimick has looked like a candidate for that role throughout the fall. A sack artist from Syracuse, he had two sacks last year but will probably get more looks on passing downs this fall, coaches have said.
Maybe nothing speaks louder than a teammate endorsement. Asiata, who goes against Dimick most days in practice, said he's proven to be one of the tougher match-ups along the defensive front.
"Hunter's a big surprise," he said. "He's fast, but he's also powerful. His speed-to-power is amazing."
Injuries and inactives • There was a pretty strong roster of players who didn't get any action on Tuesday. Defensive linemen Nate Orchard and Steve Tu'ikolovatu, linebackers Jarred Norris and Jason Whittingham and receiver Kenneth Scott sat out. Only one of them, Tu'ikolovatu, was left out due to injury concern.
Tu'ikolovatu is still nursing some soreness as he recovers from an offseason foot injury, but the hope is that he'll be able to play 15 to 20 snaps against Idaho State.
Corner Reggie Porter, waging a position battle with Davion Orphey at the spot open across from Eric Rowe, left the scrimmage early with an injury that Whittingham described only as a "bruise." He said Porter will be "on the shelf for a little bit."
HIGHLIGHT • Kaelin Clay's much-advertised speed showed itself on a punt return during the media observing period, as the senior receiver took the punt at about the 15 then cut across the field to run up the right sideline for a score. He could give special teams some juice it hasn't had in punt returns since Shaky Smithson was roaming the field.
STANDOUT • Defensive end Hunter Dimick was an undeniable presence in practice. He looks like a guy who will see a lot of playing time this fall if he keeps up his current pace.
POSITION SPOTLIGHT • Running back Bubba Poole has found favor with coaches for his all-around versatility. He rushed for 30 yards in the scrimmage, but more importantly he was the only back of the top three that didn't fumble the ball away. He also did some nice work in the return game.
QUOTE OF THE DAY • You can tell walk-on receiver Tim Patrick is still trying to learn his new teammates' names. When he was asked who was covering him on his longest reception of the day: "I have no idea. I'm just looking to catch the ball."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon
See more about comments here.