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And they won’t just play fast, they’ll try to play smart.
"There’s no sense in running a fast-paced offense if you’re going three-and-out, but if you focus on getting that first first down and then you allow the tempo to catch up to the defense, that’s where you start making some things happen," Harding said.
Utah spring camp
The Utes’ 15-practice camp opens Tuesday. Weather permitting, practices will be held outdoors at the practice field west of the Spence & Cleone Eccles Football Center and at Rice-Eccles Stadium. All practices held outdoors are open to the public. The Utes will scrimmage in Rice-Eccles on April 4 at 4 p.m., April 12 at 10 a.m., and in the Red-White game April 19 at 1 p.m. For more info, visit the team’s website. > utahutes.com
Back from the sidelines
For a handful of the Utes’ best players, 2013 didn’t count:
• Powerful 6-foot-3 junior receiver Kenneth Scott was expected to provide a sure-handed target to complement Dres Anderson’s speed on the opposite side, but his season ended with a lower-leg injury in the first quarter of the season opener against Utah State.
• Gionni Paul, a junior linebacker transfer from Miami, terrorized the 2013 Utah offense on the scout team. After just six months in Salt Lake, his fellow Utes thought enough of Paul to name him spring captain. "They respond to his leadership," says defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake.
• Wherever he plays, 35-game veteran Brian Blechen is a "big-time playmaker," says Sitake. After receiving a medical redshirt last season for tendonitis in his knee, the onetime linebacker will mostly likely stick at strong safety.
• You may not know much about Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, but that’s only because the sophomore defensive tackle was injured last fall camp: The 320-pounder was slated to start at nose guard. Sitake says that in Tu’ikolovatu — expected to return this fall — he sees shades of Star Lotulelei.
• Another relative unknown who was dominant on the scout team is Utah State transfer Jason Fanaika, a junior defensive end/tackle hybrid who coaches expect to compete for a starting job.
Former Brighton standout Jackson Barton, one of the top-rated recruits in school history, may well become Utah’s second true freshman starting tackle in three years.
"He came in in great shape," said Christensen. "He’s a big, long athlete, which is what we really like up front."
Another Brighton alum, sophomore linebacker Uaea Masina, has a fan in Sitake. Even with proven starters at linebacker like Jared Norris, Jason Whittingham and Jacoby Hale — and with Paul joining the fray — Sitake said that it’s too soon to count out Masina for playing time this fall.
Also, Ute coaches have preached the value of team speed, and dart-like redshirt freshman Troy McCormick could snag some playing time at running back behind starter Bubba Poole while Lucky Radley rehabilitates from injury.
Making the switch
Junior C.J. Poutasi is penciled in at left guard on the Utes’ spring roster, after playing left tackle last season and right tackle as a freshman. Poutasi has impressed Harding with his commitment — losing 15 pounds in less than a month since he was asked to trim down.
"That, I think — especially with how highly thought of that kid was coming out of high school and how well he played as a true freshman — for him to say ‘I see where you’re coming from’ and to buy in, I think is a good reflection," he said.
Christensen will shuffle the line until he finds the best five guys, he said. The only lock may be right guard and leader-of-few-words Junior Salt, a senior.Next Page >
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