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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah continued fall camp Monday, opening up with half pads for the first time this season.
It's still too early in camp to start identifying starters at each position, but the addition of shoulder pads allowed the players to be a little more physical. As a result, players are starting to emerge as contenders for some serious minutes.
Here are some notes from Monday’s camp.
Receivers emerging in Taylor’s offensive scheme
Receivers want the ball in their hands, and that's what new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor is looking to do, more than ever before for Utah under head coach Kyle Whittingham. Even the running backs are expected to catch more balls in Taylor’s offense — a facet of the game Taylor said is already looking good.
Receiver coach Guy Holliday said it’s “fun” to come to work in Taylor’s offense.
“He throws the ball, so that makes it fun. I enjoy working, I get along with everybody, but Troy (Taylor) is real detail-oriented and we have a lot of the same roots,” Holliday said. “He really just wants to win. What can you say when somebody throws for 5,400 yards in season? That makes it really fun to come to work every day.”
Whittingham said the receiver corp is “a whole new look” and has undergone a “transformation” from the previous years. He credited the recruiting of better players and an offensive system that fits the players well. Holliday added that the team is already farther along than at any point last season.
“I’m all about being consistent, and we’ve had some good plays and some bad plays,” Holliday said. “We’re building though, and I think we’re ahead. We’re much further ahead where we are now than we were ever at any point last year in camp. I think we’re actually doing pretty good.”
Offensive line progress
With shoulder pads on, the offensive line is slowly starting to take shape. Whittingham and offensive line coach Jim Harding believe Salesi Uhatafe will continue to be the anchor with that group, providing leadership and consistency to the less experienced players. Uhatafe will likely stay at tackle, with Lo Falemaka lining up at center again.
Both Whittingham and Harding mentioned junior college transfer Jordan Agasiva as a standout early on and Jackson Barton as one of the players who has seen starter minutes and could be a potential starter. How the offensive line can perform together will become more clear after Utah’s first scrimmage on Saturday.
Chase Hansen is out indefinitely with a pre-existing injury. In his absence, Corrion Ballard will be moved over to strong safety and junior college transfer Marquise Blair and sophomore Philip Afia will battle it out for the free safety position. At the cornerback position, Whittingham said the group has the potential to be “as good or better as we were last year as soon as this group settles in.”
Whittingham said players that are emerging in the secondary are Julian Blackmon and Casey Hughes, whom he said “have been outstanding” in the first three days and “Jaylon Johnson has been as advertised.” In addition, Nygel King, Boobie Hobbs and Javelin Guidry have stepped up and have been big-time playmakers early on.
“That position has really been rebuilt and supplemented over the last few years,” Whittingham said.
Injuries: Chase Hanson (out indefinitely), Raelon Singleton (out with a "soft tissue" injury; expected back in 3-4 days) and Tyrone Smith (back in a "day or two" due to a "little" injury).