Utah Into The “Grind” Phase Of Fall Camp
SALT LAKE CITY- The honeymoon of fall camp is over the Utes according to head coach Kyle Whittingham. After practice Monday, Whittingham noted the team was a little slow to start, but nothing of concern since they were coming off a bit of a break. He then pointed out his team in the phase of camp where it becomes a “grind” to get through.
“A little slow start,” Whittingham said. “Coming off a day off that sometimes happens. It took us a minute to get in the swing of things, but we finished strong. It was overall a positive day. It’s day five so we are getting right into the heart of the grind right now. We’ve got all the rest of this week to finish, all next week, and then school starts that week. Then the game is still far out there so we’ve got to stay focused, mentally tough, and just continue to grind because that is what it is; an absolute grind.”
Utah Grinds For Answers
As Utah continues to grind through fall camp, there are a few areas Whittingham says the Utes would like to have shored up soon. Whittingham would like to see the backup quarterback spot, the starting offensive line and defensive backs take shape after Saturday’s scrimmage.
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“As far as the starters, getting the five offensive linemen solidified and working together which we are very close,” Whittingham said. “Backup quarterback is a focal point, the secondary depth- making sure we have the secondary sorted out.”
One person who will most likely be factoring into Utah’s starting five offensive linemen is Paul Maile. Maile missed spring with an injury, but is back and working with the ones this fall. Whittingham says it’s his job till someone takes it from him.
“Paul Maile is starting center right now,” Whittingham said. “He’s working with the ones, didn’t participate in spring so he’s a little bit rusty on the onset, but he’s done a good job and as of right now it’s his job until somebody beats him out.”
Could Special Teams Be Special Again?
One of the biggest knocks of the 2021 team was the special teams play outside of returner Britain Covey. A big factor in the underwhelming performances was the punting game. Whittingham said after practice the Utes are feeling better about how that looks with new punter Jack Bouwmeester.
“We are doing a much better job punting the football,” Whittingham said. “Jack, our new guy, is really hitting the ball well. He’s got a strong leg and we should be much improved in that area.”
Buzz About The Receivers
Another area the Utes have been open about wanting to be better at is wide receiver and by all accounts moves are being made. Utah already had some good receivers on the roster in guys like Devaughn Vele, Solomon Enis, and Jaylen Dixon, but as a whole the group has been underwhelming. According to Whittingham not only are the guys who have shown flashes over the years really putting things together, but they feel like they have added some much needed talent to the group as well
“We have four or five proven guys that have been here for a while and then four or five guys who are brand new,” Whittingham said. “That’s probably another area of emphasis is trying to get those young guys sorted out and see who will be among those seven or eight to travel with us.”
Managing High Expectations
The Utes have never had as much preseason hype as they have currently experienced heading into the 2022 season. Early in the day, the USA Today Coaches Poll came out with Utah sitting inside the top ten. It is the highest preseason ranking in program history. With the hype comes expectations though, and Whittingham says it’s something his team is just going to have to live with.
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“You just have to embrace them,” Whittingham said. “They are there and there is no hiding from them. We just need to meet them head-on and understand we are getting a lot of national attention. We have to be mature enough to handle it and continue to go about our business the right way and not thing we have all the answers, or that we’ve arrived. We have to understand that we have high expectations for this team this season.”
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