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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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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah defensive lineman Vilisenji Fauokuku celebrates with his teammates after throwing a football and hitting a garbage can set up downfield during the Kyle's Camp Olympics following football practice on the University of Utah baseball field in Salt Lake City, Monday, August 18, 2014. The camp Olympics consists of fun events players and coaches computer in following practice.
Utah football notes — Walk-on WR Tim Patrick 'surprised' to get starting spot

He still has work to do on his routes, and it still takes time to process what each play call means.

But Tim Patrick is moving up the depth chart rapidly - that truly takes one skill where he has excelled so far in fall camp.

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"I think just catching the ball," he said. "I don't have many drops out here."

Patrick was revealed as the first-string receiver across from Dres Anderson on Utah's latest depth chart on Monday morning, as the team moves Kenneth Scott to starting slot receiver.

Patrick said he was surprised when coaches told him his newest role, and that he feels like he's still learning. His first practice with the ones didn't go all that well, either.

"After today I didn't feel like I should deserve the starting spot," he said. "I had a drop, then I had a DB make a really good play on one of my slants. I wasn't really blocking all that well, but I should come out better tomorrow."

Patrick's impressive learning curve has helped him stand out this fall. At 6-foot-5, he's the tallest receiver on the roster, and he's shown a knack for coming down with the ball. Patrick was a standout in Tuesday's scrimmage, grabbing six catches for 84 yards.

His back-up on the depth chart, Dominique Hatfield, is playing both ways at the moment, which makes Patrick's rise even more critical for the Utes.

"We knew he had ability, we knew he had talent, obviously or we wouldn't have recruited him," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "But for him to do what he's done so far is remarkable."

But other parts of his game remain raw. He said Anderson and Scott have helped him digest the playbook quickly, and he thinks he'll be ready to go in 10 days when the Utes open against Idaho State.

"I feel a part of the team," he said. "I'm not on the same page yet."

Deep D-tackles • The defensive tackle position battle is no longer a six-player logjam.

Nope, now it's a much more reasonable three-player logjam.

Things got slightly clearer on Monday as the Utes named junior Viliseni Fauonuku a starter at one of the defensive tackle spots. Nose guard is still up for grabs, with Sese Ianu, Clint Shepard and Lowell Lotulelei duking it out.

"I think Clint Shepard, it's probably him," Fauonuku said. "He's a little more versatile than some of the other guys. ... His work ethic is up there. He's one of the top guys on our team for that. And when he's in pads, he's hard to block."

That doesn't mean the others won't see time. Coaches have indicated that as many as six defensive tackles could be in the mix for snaps this fall, and even Fauonuku's backup, either Filipo Mokofisi or Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, will probably get regular reps.

The depth at the spot this year is "a blessing," Fauonuku said. Although Mokofisi and Lotulelei are both probably not starters this year, their teammates see good things ahead for the two freshmen.

"I wish I was as good as them when I was a freshman," Faounuku said. "Give it time, those guys are going to be great football players."

Of course, depth is not necessarily a good thing if it doesn't play well. The whole defense was still smarting Monday after giving up rushing yards galore in Saturday's scrimmage.

It's correctable, Faounuku said.

"Most of it was just missed tackles," he said. "If we come to hit someone with a purpose, we'll improve with that."

More depth chart movement • Matt Piper listed most of the major changes this morning, so feel free to check out that post if you haven't already. Guys who firmed up their starting roles include right tackle J.J. Dielman, right guard Isaac Asiata and the situation at quarterback. Falling off the two-deep: tackles Jackson Barton, Marc Pouvave, and tight end Evan Moeai.

This third week of camp could be make-or-break stretches for certain players to clinch at least back-up roles this fall: running back Troy McCormick, receiver Kaelin Clay, linebacker Marcus Sanders-Williams, defensive end Greg Reese, and safeties Brian Allen and Charles Henderson.

One change that isn't listed officially, but Whittingham added after practice: Brandon Cox is No. 3 on the quarterback job.

"He just outplayed Conner [Manning]," Whittingham said.

***

HIGHLIGHT • Dres Anderson really could provide the daily highlight in every practice, but he gets special mention for a one-handed grab he made by the right sideline in coverage against Eric Rowe.

STANDOUT • Jason Fanaika is keeping things interesting in the left end battle between him and Hunter Dimick. He batted down a pass from the line of scrimmage in Monday morning practice.

POSITION SPOTLIGHT • Kyle Whittingham with pleased with how Travis Wilson played Monday after winning the starting job. But Kendal Thompson "will play" this fall in a yet-undefined set of situational plays.

QUOTE OF THE DAY • We had Ron McBride in the office for a TribTalk rap. The discussion centered around a story Matt and I wrote about paying college players, but Coach Mac also dropped his opinion on this year's Utes. "They've got guys that can make plays and can hit a home run for you when you need it, so don't be surprised Utah has a better year than what people think."

You heard it here first, folks. You can check out the link to the full TribTalk here.

Kyle Goon

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon



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