SALT LAKE CITY — The Utes returned to fall camp for the second week as players were allowed to wear full pads for the first time this season.
Adding pads brought out a new sense of excitement as players were able to take more hits and simulate real-live work. As a result, the offense took a step forward and had one of its greatest showings of fall camp this year. Quarterback Tyler Huntley looked composed in the pocket and delivered clean balls to a plethora of receivers for big gains.
Huntley, who head coach Kyle Whittingham said is “more productive” and “more efficient” this year, looked the part as a returning starter as he spent most of his time doing work from the pocket. The junior quarterback has improved “dramatically,” according to Whittingham, and has improved in “all areas.”
“The one thing we wish is that he would've gotten a little bigger,” Whittingham added. “He hasn't gotten to quite to where we want him to get weightwise. But he's working hard. It's no fault of his own. Some guys just have a harder time putting on weight than others. But as far as his decision making, not only in the throw game but in the run game, has been very good.”
Whittingham said Huntley has likely improved 10-15 percent in terms of efficiency from last year. But the coach echoed his caution to the returning starter to avoid big hits.
An example of Huntley improved play came Monday when he took the snap under center — a rare sight in Utah’s offense. He quickly read the defense and found Siaosi Mariner for a highly-contested sideline pass. The pass was accurately placed and in such a way as to avoid a pass breakup from defender Julian Blackmon.
🎥: Here's the play of the day at @Utah_Football camp. QB Tyler Huntley (@_SNOOP1) rolls out and throws to WR Siaosi Mariner (@SdotGatsby) along the sideline. Mariner with the grab in tight coverage (it's slowed down at end of clip to show catch) pic.twitter.com/zHHeuhrrUo— Deseret News Sports (@desnewssports) August 6, 2018
Huntley would connect with Britain Covey, Demari Simpkins, Bryan Thompson and Jaylen Dixon in several other good looks that spread out the defense and got the offense moving downfield. Most welcoming to the office, though, was the emergence of tight end Jake Jackson Monday, who blocked well on the line and had several nice catches, including a 30-yard touchdown catch to open up the media observation period.
The tight end position has been a luxury position for Utah the last couple of years as injuries have plagued the group. But Jackson looks to be a solid option coming into the season. He’s gotten bigger and has become more of a threat in the passing game, which has also opened up opportunities for other receivers.
“It's just a matter of them earning the reps and earning the right to be on the field,” Whittingham said of the tight ends. “We're not going to just say, ‘hey, we want to play with more tight end, so we're going to.’ The more plays they make the more we'll go with tight ends.”
Devonta’e Henry-Cole out with injury
The junior running back is out with a season-ending arm injury, Whittingham announced Monday. Henry-Cole, who was backing up Zack Moss and Armand Shyne, needs arm surgery on a pre-existing injury. He has a redshirt year available and will be able to preserve his eligibility as such.
In Henry-Cole’s absence is freshman Devin Brumfield and redshirt freshman T.J. Green. Both have emerged this fall as strong options to get some backup minutes. Whittingham said Monday that Brumfield “is making the case for himself” and is “doing a great job.” He added that Green has “improved dramatically” over the year and is also in contention.
Linemen play on both sides of the ball
After a week of play, Utah has found its starting five on the offensive line. And it’s redshirt freshman Nick Ford that’s been inserted into the lineup next to last year’s starters. Jackson Barton (LT) and Darrin Paulo (RT) will play at the two tackle positions, Ford (LG) and Jordan Agasiva (RG) at the two guard positions and Lo Falemaka returning at center.
Utah is looking to have at least eight guys that can play on the offensive line — at least one more backing up tackle, guard and center. Johnny Capra and Paul Toala expect to fit in that rotation, but the backup roles have not been decided.
On the defensive side of the ball, Whittingham said there is “no problem at all.” He said they’re looking to have a rotation of about five or six tackles and four at defensive end. At tackle, Whittingham said the rotation will be comprised of Leki Fotu, Pita Tonga, Jon Penisini, Hauati Pututau, Paul Maile and Jackson Cravens
Bradlee Anae leads the defensive ends on the left side, with Caleb Repp likely to start on the opposite side. In the mix is Mika Tafua, Maxs Tupai and Nick Heninger, according to Whittingham.
NOTES: Linebacker Bryant Pirtle joined the team Saturday and is currently in the NCAA’s required acclimation period. He’ll be able to wear full pads and participate fully in the coming days. … Whittingham said he’s seen some separation at the backup quarterback spot, but he’s not ready to announce it yet.