Eric Rowe makes a play for Utes' starting safety role
What looked like a questionable spot for the Utah Utes going into camp is quickly becoming an asset.
The Utes, who have little experience at safety, have been impressed with the way newcomers Keith McGill and Eric Rowe have played to the point in which they are experimenting with both on the field at the same time.
Rowe, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman out of Spring, Texas, was originally slated to be McGill's backup at free safety.
On Tuesday, he spent time at strong safety, where sophomore Michael Walker was slated to start.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham liked what he saw out of Rowe, although he stressed that the Utes remain in the experimental stage.
"We're taking a look at that," he said of the two being on the field together. "But nothing is set in stone."
The Utes needed to groom new starters at safety after Justin Taplin-Ross graduated and Brian Blechen was moved to linebacker.
Senior Greg Bird and sophomore Quade Chappuis, who were backups at the spot in 2010, remain on the depth chart as backups at strong safety. Freshman Terrell Reese is listed as a backup at free safety.
Handle with care
For the second day in a row, starting quarterback Jordan Wynn threw for only half of practice. Whittingham said the trainers decide how much Wynn can throw, depending on how he feels day to day. Overall, the Utes are being conservative with Wynn, who missed spring ball while rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
"We want to make sure we have him available for that first game," Whittingham said. "We want him to get enough reps to stay sharp and for the rest of the offense to get on the field with him and get used to him making the calls. That is important, but it's important to make sure he is 100 percent."
Tuesday's practice was the first for the Utes in full pads, which meant players delivered hits and the smack talk that often accompanies the clashes.
"It was good to play real football," Whittingham said. "To this point, we've been limited, but today, we got into the contact stuff."
A few skirmishes broke out, which was to be expected during the first day in pads. Whittingham wasn't bothered to see his players mixing it up a bit, noting that the team's chemistry is better than ever.
"They care about each other, and that has been the strength of our teams a lot of years," he said. "I thought last year's team might be the pinnacle of that, and chemistry is an elusive term, but to this point, this team has had great chemistry."
What we learned • Freshman defensive end Nate Fakahafua out of Highland High School continues to be one of the surprises in camp. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder isn't on the depth chart yet, but he's establishing himself as a player to watch.
Who was hot • After drawing criticism from coach Kyle Whittingham after Monday's practice, kickers Nick Marsh and Coleman Petersen were "much improved" Tuesday.
What's next • The Utes have their first two-a-day practice Wednesday.