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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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Utah football PM notes: Whittingham, again, says Wilson and Thompson are ‘as close as you can possibly be’

Utah practiced for just an hour Friday afternoon, working on schematics for onside kicks and kickoffs when media were ushered onto the infield to watch the last 20 minutes. Head coach Kyle Whittingham said it was a crisp practice and named "everyone" as his standout.

Saturday morning, things will get serious.

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Whittingham reiterated that junior quarterbacks Kendal Thompson and Travis Wilson enter Saturday’s scrimmage "in a dead heat."

"As close as you can possibly be," he said to a somewhat skeptical-looking group. But Whittingham has repeated this week that while Wilson entered camp No. 1 and was No. 1 up until Tuesday’s scrimmage, coaches are weighting the scrimmages heavily in their decision, and neither signal-caller was dramatically better on that day.

He has said before that he would like to name a clear starter before the final week of fall camp begins.

At the No. 3 spot, the battle seems to have been reduced to one between redshirt freshmen Conner Manning and Brandon Cox. It’s important that they make the most of their reps, because Whittingham said they are unlikely to get many once the season starts.

Asked about Cox, Whittingham said he’s been impressed at the way he’s handled limited reps.

"He’s kept a positive attitude and he comes to practice every day with the right mentality, and that’s good to see," Whittingham said. "He’s just a redshirt freshman. He’s got a lot of football ahead of him and we think he’s got a lot of talent."

***

Pounds, schmounds » On whether or not J.J. Dielman is big enough to handle the rigors of right tackle in the Pac-12, Whittingham acknowledged that he wouldn’t be opposed to Dielman adding 5-10 pounds.

But he’s OK where he is, too.

"He’s 285 and I think Oregon played a guard at 265 last year, so there’s a place for the lean, quick offensive lineman," he said. "Particularly — maybe not five years ago — but now with ... all that’s taken place with the offensive changes."

New offensive coordinator Dave Christensen and new line coach Jim Harding have repeatedly stressed the importance of endurance to linemen, and a general trend toward slimming down can be seen throughout the roster since the start of spring. Dielman is one of the few guys who they’ve asked to get heavier.

And on whether tight end or defensive end Wallace Gonzalez is too heavy to be a tight end, Whittingham said he’s 265. Christensen would like him to be 260 at tight end. But for a defensive end, he’s perfect. Coaches will sit down with Gonzalez after he lines up at defensive end in Saturday’s scrimmage and figure out where the three-year Houston Astros minor leaguer would like to begin his college football career.

***

Dedicated » After Whittingham jumped on his old bike and started to ride toward the facility, as he does, he turned to media and said, "Know one of the reasons why Scotty’s really, really good? It’s that," pointing to where junior wideout Kenneth Scott was catching balls propelled by a Jugs machine. He does that after every practice, Whittingham said.

***

Quick hits » Pita Taumoepenu, the subject of a must-read story from Kyle Goon today, will remain at linebacker for the short term after switching from defensive end. ... Logan Stott, who originally committed to Arizona last year out of Pine View and has walked on as a guard at the U., is still learning the ropes after missing summer conditioning, Whittingham said. But, "he works hard, and he’s a good kid." ... Whittingham said he will not drastically change Utah’s approach on special teams after coordinator Jay Hill left to become the head coach at Weber State. Now that’s Whittingham’s domain, but "It’s not broken, so don’t fix it."

***

Quote of the day, Part II » Told his assistant Helen Buchanan has to wear a sweater because it’s so cold in his office, Whittingham said, "I like it about 40 in there. I like to hang meat in there if I can."

— Matthew Piper

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper



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