Some Ute football players, Patrick Dyson and Chris Christensen included, got to the Smith football facility Friday afternoon and put on their pads and jerseys, expecting to play in the team's final scrimmage of the spring. Then a coach came along and told them to change back into shorts and T-shirts.

Most of the Utes' name-brand players spent the afternoon on the sidelines with the likes of NFLers such as Luther Elliss and Kevin Dyson and future NFLers such as Richard Seals and John Frank, who came by to watch their old team.

The Utes closed out spring practice not knowing for sure who's the quarterback or running back or a few other positions for next fall. And none too worried about it.

"We're just looking at the young guys," said coach Ron McBride, adding it had nothing to do with avoiding injuries. "We already know what the other guys can do. We saw them (in some cases) for three years. What we needed to find out was who helps us in the fall."

McBride wasn't ready to divulge that information.

But backup quarterbacks Tony Alvarez and Lance Rice distinguished themselves, as did running backs Nick Morgan and Thomas Fortune, receivers LeRoy Shelton and Brad Burtenshaw, tight ends Matt Nickel and Andy Kassotis, defenders Anthony White, Arnold Parker, Jeff Ray, Garrett Smith, Lavale Sape, Dylan Bird and C.R. Dwinell.

"I got excited about the run Nick made," McBride said of Morgan, who broke some tackles on the left side but was hauled down about the 10. Morgan carried three times for 31 yards. Fortune carried eight times for 30 yards and scored the only rushing TD, from 5 yards. Mbe Agbor was 7-for-19 yards, and the 5-foot-6, 180-pound senior carried a pile of tacklers that hid him from view for about 5 yards on one middle rush.

"They had to see a little more from me," said sophomore Smith, a defensive tackle who started a lot of games as a redshirt freshman in 1999. Smith had a 5-yard sack, as did Bird. Backup cornerback Desmond Davis had a pass breakup.

Rice was ecstatic to play so much. "It felt good to show what I can do," he said. Rice was 8-for-13 for 130 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass and three other completions to Burtenshaw.

"I learned a lot, getting a lot of reps," said Rice, a 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman from Olympus High. It's been nearly three years since he played a real game, he said. "I started well. I had some bad reads at the end," Rice said. With at least T.D. Croshaw, Darnell Arceneaux and Alvarez listed ahead of him, Rice knows his chances to playing next fall are slim, but he's aware that being ready to play if something happens is wise.

"I think I did the best I could, and maybe the coaches will remember my name," said Rice, grandson of stadium namesake Bob Rice.

"If a guy shines, he can earn a spot," McBride said about situations such as Friday's scrimmage. He wouldn't say anybody did earn a spot, but certainly no one has forgotten how Croshaw unexpectedly rose to stardom last fall. "If T.D. hadn't been able to play last year, we'd have been in deep crap," McBride said. Croshaw became a starter and played about as much as did the injured Arceneaux, throwing for 1,176 yards to Arceneaux's 1,342 total and winning three of the four games he started.

Rice was told a couple of days ago that he would play a lot Friday, but he said it was a surprise to play that much because Croshaw and Arceneaux are still neck and neck. "I thought they would play them and get a little separation," Rice said.

Alvarez, a senior, played the most of the QBs Friday, but he was 3-for-8 for 48 yards. Still, he two potential receptions including a certain touchdown pass were just plain dropped. McBride thought he looked pretty good.

McBride said spring ball went smoothly, and a lot was accomplished. "These guys were very efficient. Whatever we asked them to do, they did," he said. He was dismayed at some up-and-down play. "Every day you get a different opinion. You would like to see some consistency," he said. "You usually don't but you'd like to see it."

For the spring, the secondary was a strength and will better in Fall 2000 because a talented bunch was recruited there. Corner Andre Dyson, a second-team All-Moun-tain West player last fall, has made marked improvement toward his senior year. "He's as good as you can be at that position," McBride said.

All five quarterbacks "progressed," McBride said, and sometimes the offensive line looked good. The recruited running backs "have gotta help us," he said, and he hopes some of the linebacker recruits will step in.


You can reach Linda Hamilton by e-mail at lham@desnews.com