Utah football: Faster offensive pace taking toll on defense
Brian Blechen sat on one knee, showering himself with the contents of a cool water bottle.
A few feet away, Nate Orchard repeated the same routine. And throughout Utah's defense, pictures of players bent over, gasping for air dominated the scene.
These Utes were tired, with the offense and the heat of a sunny day on the Rice-Eccles Stadium turf being the main culprits. For an entire week of fall camp, the emphasis has been on offensive pace, more snaps and more reps at a much faster clip.
On Saturday morning, the effects were finally visible.
"It was like going against Oregon," Orchard said. "We needed this, we needed to see this. We want to be the best defense in the conference, and we need an offense that can kick our butts a little bit. We have to play better, be in better shape."
Both Kyle Whittingham and offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson lauded the offense for its ability to get to the line of scrimmage and get plays off on Saturday. Indeed, the Utes were much faster than they had been in previous days. The execution was a bit better, and by the end of a controlled scrimmage, the defense was simply worn out.
It showed. After possessions of attempting to stretch the field vertically, Utah went to the ground game and pounded Kelvin York and Karl Williams without mercy. Because of a fatigued defense, those two consistently moved piles through the middle. Williams in particular looked good, scoring a touchdown and running effectively between the tackles.
"I always said that we want to play fast, and it comes at a cost," Whittingham said. "The offense was much better today, completely different from what we saw yesterday. They knew that they had to be better and they did that."
Saturday's comments from Erickson yielded the strongest hint yet that Travis Wilson is the full-fledged starter.
When asked if there was potential for movement on the quarterback depth chart, Erickson answered in the affirmative but said there's little room for movement at the top.
"I think Travis, Adam [Schulz] and Brandon [Cox] are the three guys in that order," Erickson said. "I think Travis has had the best fall camp."
Offensive lineman Jeremiah Poutasi was in the pit today with a sore back. Whittingham said the injury wasn't expected to be serious.
Defensive back Davion Orphey was out this morning with a hip flexor injury. He is expected to return to action next week.
The Utah staff is seriously thinking of moving freshman running back Troy McCormick to the slot because of his speed and his ability to make defenders miss.
He's shown enough this week that the staff is trying to get him on the field any way they can.
"We have to figure out how to get him the ball and get him in space," Erickson said.
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