Utah football team preparing for East Coast kickoff
Between the early kickoff and the time-zone difference, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is concerned his team might not be ready to play, so he is taking every precaution he can to acclimate the Utes for their 10 a.m. (noon eastern time) kickoff Saturday.
The Utes have been practicing in the mornings this week and are leaving for Pittsburgh on Thursday, a day earlier than usual.
"It is a concern, but we play the games when they tell us to," Whittingham said.
Players say their coach has nothing to be worried about, and they'll be ready to go.
"It's not that big of a deal," linebacker Brian Blechen said. "It's earlier, but you go through the same routine on game day wherever you're at and no matter what time it is."
While a morning kickoff might not be ideal, practicing in the mornings is, Whittingham said.
If Utah was located in a warmer climate, the coach would consider holding morning practices throughout the season and not just when players are on fall break.
"What you're able to do is watch practice film right after practice rather than doing it the next day so you're able to compartmentalize everything in a day," he said. "If we lived in a place where there was different weather as midseason approaches, we'd take a hard look at doing this."
Freshman quarterback Tyler Shreve has been getting a lot more reps in practice, now that Jordan Wynn is done for the season.
Slated as Jon Hays' backup, Shreve was going to be redshirted this year, but now might be pressed into service. If he does have to play, offensive coordinator Norm Chow said Shreve can handle the role.
Shreve has a strong arm, Chow said, but still has to learn the little things that a quarterback must know.
"He is a talented quarterback, probably as talented a guy as we have here," Chow said. "But there are other parts of being a quarterback. It takes maturity and discipline and making sure the ball goes to the right guy and all that stuff."
Blechen made one of his greatest plays as a Ute last year against Pitt, when his interception in OT helped the Utes beat the Panthers 27-24.
Blechen joked that he'd make sure Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri knew where he was on the field this time.
"I'll try to find some time to do that," he said.
Joking aside, Blechen said Sunseri is an improved quarterback this year.
"He's stronger and faster and makes better decisions," he said.