SALT LAKE CITY — After more than a week of preseason camp, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff are eager to change things up a little bit.
“It’s time for a scrimmage,” said Whittingham, who explained that the coaches need a large body of live work to get some feedback on position groups, individuals, offense, defense and special teams.
Plans for Tuesday morning's scrimmage call for 75-80 plays with some red zone work and situations from various spots on the field. Nothing will be really scripted.
Position battles — especially at cornerback, backup quarterback, wide receiver and No. 2 running back — top the list of things to sort out.
“That’s the main reason we’re scrimmaging (Tuesday),” said Whittingham, who noted that with the Aug. 29 opener against Utah State approaching it’s time to start separating the pack.
As of now, sophomore Travis Wilson has held off contenders Brandon Cox, Conner Manning, Adam Schulz and Micah Thomas for the starting quarterback job.
“Travis is still No. 1 and really has not been threatened yet,” Whittingham said. “The guys behind him are playing well but nothing that’s a threat where there’s any debate. But for No. 2, there’s a debate.”
Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson expects all five quarterbacks to see action in the scrimmage. The reps, however, will be handled according to a developing pecking order. Other intriguing battles on offense include the third starting receiver spot alongside Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott, plus the backup running back spot behind Kelvin York.
“We’ve got to get a look at where we are and get some extensive live work,” Johnson said. “I’m excited to watch the guys get after it tomorrow for a little bit.”
On defense, an intense competition at cornerback still features five or six potential starters with no real separation. Other battles are brewing elsewhere as depth is established.
“We still have some unsettled spots. I like the group. I’d just like to see somebody rise to the top. We’re going to put them in position to win the spots out and we’ll see how they respond to it,” said defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake. “I think right now our guys are doing well. The right guys have positioned themselves for the starting spots and we’ll see if the starter can grab it or not.”
TOUGH NEWS: News of Aaron Alford’s death Monday left the Utes mourning. The former Utah assistant (2007-10) and director of high school relations (2011) passed away from an apparent heart attack in Park City. He was 39 years old.
“It was tragic. It breaks your heart. Coach Alford was with us for a lot of years,” said Whittingham. “We’re going to miss him. He was one of the genuinely good guys, good people, that has come through here. He cared about the players so much and all the players just loved him.”
Alford is survived by his wife, Linda, and three children.
“Our hearts are broken today and our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” added Whittingham.
WORK IN PROGRESS: When asked about Wilson’s development, Whittingham offered a mixed bag in his response.
“He’s a more confident guy. He still needs to continue to develop even further in that regard and also in leadership,” Whittingham said. “(As a) Division I quarterback, you’re the leader of a team. You’ve got to take charge and there are some days he still hasn’t figured that part of it out.”
EXTRA POINTS: Offensive tackle Salesi Uhatafe, who survived the car accident that claimed the life of another incoming freshman, Gaius Vaenuku, last month, attended Monday night’s practice and will begin participating in camp on Tuesday. ... This week’s depth chart has senior Latu Heimuli joining LT Tuipulotu and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu atop one of the defensive tackle spots. In other moves, redshirt freshman Isaac Asiata is listed as the backup to Junior Salt at right guard and junior Jacoby Hale has moved into the No. 2 slot at stud linebacker behind Brian Blechen. ... Whittingham said Monday’s evening practice was productive. The Utes mainly polished things up and worked on the timing of routes.