Utah football starts off fall camp with experience and energy


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SALT LAKE CITY — It was the exact type of start Utah’s Kyle Whittingham hoped for on the first day of his team’s fall camp: Energy and intensity.

With veteran experience returning and fewer questions about the various position groups, Utah was able to transition into camp smoother than last season, giving the Utes a leg up on the year.

“It was a good practice,” Whittingham said. “This group has been at it since January; it’s been nonstop. I didn’t expect anything different than what we got.”

Utah started off camp with no pads, as the team will slowly introduce the protective gear and physicality as the camp progresses, per NCAA rules.

Here are a few points from the first day of camp.

Offensive jumpstart

Utah started off on a better footing this year, having a returning offensive coordinator and at least eight or more players with starting experience. That experience going into camp has allowed Troy Taylor to spend less time learning the players’ names and helping them understand his offensive schemes. Instead, the players were familiar with the offense and were ready to go.

Although media was only allowed to view the last 20 minutes of practice, Utah’s offense looked in sync and as a team ready to pick up where they left of last season. That’s not to say the execution was perfect — it wasn’t — but players didn’t need a lot of coaching from the sideline.

The quarterbacks each showed positive things, particularly Tyler Huntley, who looks bigger and has more of a pocket presence before rolling out to look for a pass, and is the “clear-cut No. 1.” Freshman Jack Tuttle and redshirt freshman Jason Shelley each showed well against the defense. Both will split the reps for a chance at the backup spot behind Huntley, according to Whittingham and Taylor. None, however, we see live action in camp.

The offensive line, too, has a lot of returning experience with four of the five guys likely expected to start. Whittingham said freshman Nick Ford is pushing for a starting spot at guard with Paul Toala and Jordan Agasiva. However, Whittingham reiterated the point that he’s looking for the five best guys and the rest will sort itself out.

The running back position is already settled at the No. 1 spot with Zack Moss, who is expected to get little live action so as to keep him healthy for the season, according to Whittingham. Moss said he’s put on about 10 pounds of muscle and believes he’s stronger in his lower body. The other running backs will fall into place as they go against the defense with pads, but Armand Shyne remains the favorite to back up Moss.

Questions at receiver

The one area of uncertainty on the offense is at receiver and tight end. Whittingham said there are about eight guys right now he feels comfortable playing, including veteran Siaosi Mariner as the leading guy. But others, like Britain Covey, who returns from a two-year LDS Church mission, earned praise from Whittingham.

“Britain Covey is back,” Whittingham said. “He’s got all of his quickness and speed. He lacks a little endurance — that’s what he lacks right now and it will be a few weeks — but he is what we hoped he would be as far as his return.”

Whittingham singled out a handful of receivers he expects to compete: Mariner, Covey, Samson Nacua, Bronson Boyd, Bryan Thompson, Jaylen Dixon and freshman Solomon Enis, who “looked really good today.”

“This is a very athletic receiver group, though inexperienced. We’re excited to see who emerges as it evolves.

Team additions

Whittingham confirmed that Bryant Pirtle has passed all of his academic requirements to officially transfer to Utah, and should be joining the team in a week or so. He said he hopes to have the linebacker sooner if the official paperwork is finalized quicker, but it should be a done deal by next week. It’s not expected that Pirtle will be an instant impact player, as he’ll have to learn the defense, but should give some great depth to the linebacker position.

As for other potential newcomer linebackers, namely Francis Bernard, Whittingham said there is no new right now. “I wish I did, but right now we’re status quo for the time being,” he said. Bernard still has to qualify academically before coaches can officially talk about him or join the team, per NCAA rules.

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Josh is the Sports Director for KSL.com and beat writer covering University of Utah athletics — primarily football, men’s and women's basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.

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