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After last week’s first practice of preseason football camp, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig responded willingly to questions about receiver Britain Covey’s workload as he returns from knee surgery.
Asked about running back Zack Moss' status Wednesday, Whittingham cited his policy of not addressing how much players participate in practice.
I'm not suggesting what anyone should read into that.
Utah made Moss available for a group interview and he basically said, “I’m good.” Ute play-by-play broadcaster Bill Riley also featured Moss In the regular, one-on-one camp interview posted on the school’s website, although Riley was seen restarting the taping after he initially began with a question about Moss’ health.
What's clear is the three weeks until Utah's Aug. 29 season opener at BYU are going to be awkward, and the NCAA Board of Governors is not helping, from a media perspective. The NCAA announced Wednesday it will not make football injury reporting mandatory in 2019, citing “significant concerns about the purpose, parameters, enforcement and effectiveness of a player availability reporting model.”
In other words, it is difficult to make coaches tell the truth, although the NFL tries to make it work.
Later in this newsletter, I'll explain more about Utah's media policies and what I view as the unintended consequences of college programs' not reporting injuries among more widespread, legalized gambling on sports.
On the subject of quarterbacks, Tribune columnist Gordon Monson suggests senior Tyler Huntley is positioned for a big year. I checked in with sophomore Jason Shelley, who’s back in his former backup role after filling in for Huntley last season.
Offensive line coach Jim Harding said he understands the concerns about his group, but he’s confident about his players and Whittingham is a believer in Harding.
Some of Utah’s offensive linemen, notably East High School alumnus Johnny Maea, appear to be emerging in camp. Just to be sure about their depth, Utah’s coaches made a big effort to land players in the NCAA transfer portal. I asked linemen Alex Locklear and Noah Osur-Myers and tight end Hunter Thedford about life in the portal.
Tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham likes what Thedford may bring to Ludwig’s offense, as Whittingham’s own career evolves.
Position battles help make August interesting. The Utes have one at cornerback, between Tareke Lewis and Josh Nurse.
Kyle Whittingham always talks about recruiting, and here’s data that shows the Utes invest heavily in it.
The basketball program made news this week with NCAA sanctions for mid-level recruiting violations. The timing of the NCAA’s report means that nearly all of the penalties have been served, but there has been some previously undisclosed fallout for associate head coach Tommy Connor. He’s no longer contractually the coach in waiting.
At this point, I’ll explain Utah’s media policies for covering football practice. During the three weeks of preseason camp last August, reporters were allowed to watch the last 20 minutes of practice on three days each week. Restrictions were published about what could not be reported, though, such as which players were participating, how they were being used in schemes and whether they wore any health-related gear.
This year, no media observation of practice is allowed during camp (the same policy as during the 2018 regular season). Reporters are escorted to the field for post-practice interviews, with more detailed rules for what can be reported. The school won't allow photography of post-practice drills, for example, or interaction between players and coaches.
Whittingham’s more restrictive stance undoubtedly is connected to Utah’s opening the season vs. BYU for the first time. And he reiterated that he’ll report only season-ending injuries until the NCAA forces him to be more forthcoming on a weekly basis.
The NCAA had a committee study the issue this year, but didn't implement any policy. I understand the problem of enforcing accuracy in the reporting of players' status. But some system is needed. If official information is not provided, then unofficial information becomes more valuable. Gamblers will try harder to find out about players' status.
The Athletic profiled Hawaii native Bradlee Anae’s petting of sharks and jumping off cliffs (ATH).
Here’s how Dirk Facer of the Deseret News addressed the Moss subject (DNEWS).
Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner updated camps around the conference (MERC).
• Former Utah softball star Hannah Flippen, now a Ute assistant coach, has been invited to try out for the U.S. team that will play in the Olympics in Tokyo next summer. The three-time All-America infielder and Pac-12 Player of the Year will compete Oct. 1-6 in Oklahoma City.
• The Utah women’s basketball team will open the season Nov. 5 and 7 in Cincinnati, facing the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. The Utes’ home opener is Nov. 16 vs. South Dakota. Utah will visit BYU earlier than ever (Nov. 29) and opens the Pac-12 schedule vs. Colorado in late December (the exact date is TBA).