The University of Utah football team will hold 23 fall camp sessions ahead of the Nov. 7 opener vs. Arizona, but Kyle Whittingham has been adamant over the last week that two of those sessions are going to hold more weight than the other 21.
The Utes will conduct a live scrimmage on Saturday. They will go live again on Oct. 24 and at that point, decisions on starting roles and a slew of other decisions on the depth chart at various positions are expected ahead of the Utes' first game week.
Long story short, Whittingham and his players have been at it for a week now, but things will start getting a little more serious on Saturday.
“Tomorrow and next Saturday are two very important days and will be a big determining factor in the two-deep,” Whittingham said Friday morning on a Zoom call. “Guys want to play, be on the two-deep, be on the travel roster, so tomorrow and next Saturday will really define that for the most part.”
Friday afternoon marked Utah’s seventh fall camp session. At this still-early juncture, there are a lot of questions for Whittingham and his staff to answer going into Saturday.
A three-man quarterback competition between Jake Bentley, Cameron Rising and Drew Lisk is expected to be narrowed down to two after Saturday, although Whittingham indicated earlier this week Utah may be in a position to settle on a starter as early as Saturday. If and when Utah settles on a starter, he is not expected to be revealed until, at the earliest, the start of game week.
UTAH VS. ARIZONA
At Rice-Eccles Stadium
When • November 7, TBD
A less-heralded running back competition is boiling down to Devin Brumfield and Jordan Wilmore, with a handful of other options, specifically multidimensional true freshman Ty Jordan, still having a say as decisions loom.
“He’s got to be consistent,” Utes running backs coach Kiel McDonald said of Jordan, a one-time University of Texas commit. “He’s got to be able to align, assign, know his responsibilities and physically, be able to execute the techniques that I’m asking him to do. Can’t just show flash on day one, day three, day four, day seven. It has to be consistent.”
Going back to the spring, McDonald has been optimistic about Jordan’s immediate possibilities, but Whittingham was more adamant than McDonald Friday morning that Jordan, who ran a fully-automatic 10.52 100-meter dash as a junior at West Mesquite High School in Texas, will have an immediate role this fall.
Whittingham has said publicly that Nephi Sewell is the “odds-on favorite” to start next to Devin Lloyd at linebacker, but painted that Friday as a decision that still needs to be made.
There are questions along the defensive line, not so much in terms of who starts, but what the depth looks like. Whittingham singled out a pair of freshman defensive ends Friday, Van Fillinger and Xavier Carlton, as having impressed early in camp. The projected starters at those defensive end spots are junior Mika Tafua and senior Maxs Tupai, respectively.
One of Whittingham’s primary objectives entering camp, replacing the entire secondary, will also get sorted out further, although it does appear those decisions may not be as hard as everyone once thought.
Whittingham said twice this week that sophomore JT Broughton is his No. 1 cornerback, with four-star freshman Clark Phillips III continuing to get reps at both nickel and outside cornerback. Bronson Boyd, if healthy, likely slides in as the other outside cornerback, while Whittingham noted that Malone Mataele “has been a pleasant surprise this camp.”
Mataele, a redshirt sophomore, played in eight games last season, with four appearances on defense as the backup nickel. He appeared on the pre-camp two-deep as the projected starter at nickel, with Phillips III as the co-No. 2 with sophomore Aaron Lowe.
The Utes were in shoulder pads Monday and Tuesday, and full pads on Wednesday and Thursday. Whittingham noted Friday morning they would go without any pads in the afternoon in anticipation of going live for the first time on Saturday.