As the Ute football team donned the pads for the first time Saturday morning under new coach Urban Meyer, the pulse of practice quickened even more than it had for the first two workouts.
Pads mean hitting, and this practice was no place for timidity.
Safety Morgan Scalley hit receiver Paris Warren so hard at the goal line in one of the final plays of the day that he not only popped the ball into the air but knocked the stuffing out of linebacker Ray Holdcraft, who was sandwiching Warren on the other side. "Scalley knocked the dog out of Paris," Meyer said with some delight.
The two-hour workout ended with a dozen or so red-zone plays, Meyer keeping count of whether the offense or defense won each play and the winning side loudly mobbing the player who scored the touchdown or stopped the play - position coaches included in the melees.
From now on, there is a winner and a loser of each practice session. "We started that on my last job the last couple of years," Meyer said, referring to his first head-coaching job at Bowling Green, where he took a chronically losing program to a top-25 national ranking in less than two years.
"You've got to get used to it. Someone's going to win, and someone's going to lose. You go harder," Meyer said. "I love that part. If I was a player, I'd like to finish practice like that."
On Saturday, the players certainly got into it. "I was really pleased with the scrimmage. You saw the enthusiasm," Meyer said. "The minute you think this is not a game where guys are supposed to have fun and hit the heck out of each other, then you're not doing the right thing."
He said he's "always worrying about" players getting hurt, but, "It's spring football. You can get hurt pulling a hamstring."
No matter how frenzied players get, they're reminded to cheer their side and not fight with the other side.
And they must remember where they are. There is a red line painted on the field just outside the sideline that's closest to the Smith Center. Once a player crosses that red line onto the playing field, he must be in a constant state of hustle, all business. Anybody walking off the field before getting to that red line is called back to run penance.
Ben Moa was very careful about doing an interview close to that red line. He didn't want to run more, even though he is an enthusiastic backer of the high-tempo practices.
"I love it. It's going to make us so that we're like machines. Nobody can stop us," Moa said.
"There's not going to be the excuse, 'If we'd have only went 4 more yards; if we'd only have went 1 more yard.' We're going to take care of everything right now so in August we won't say, 'Oh, we should have done this, we should have done that.' "
Moa, a tight end with good speed and hands, has become the starting "E" receiver, meaning he's a flex receiver. He gets more pass routes than a tight end and blocks, too.
"I absolutely love this offense," he said. "We spread them around, but we still threaten them with the run. For the defense it's a lose-lose situation."
He shed 29 pounds to be able to play the new position. "I got serious I guess. Yeah, I had to diet," said Moa, the former Ogden High Tiger known then as Ben Allison.
The dieting "was kinda easy because my wife had dinner for me when I went home, and I didn't have to go out to eat fast food. My wife would make healthy foods, some of the stuff I love, some of the stuff I hate," he said.
The lower weight should help Moa be effective in Meyer's quick-draw game.
"This is a dream to play in this offense," said Meyer. "We are telling them, if they blitz and they give us the right look, we're going to try and score a touchdown. If you want to score 60 points, you're in the right offense. They have to understand, if people are going to blitz, they have to get open and have to get open right now.
"There's a lot of negativity about our receivers, and I'm one of those guys," said Meyer, who worries there aren't enough with the right skills and quickness on the squad now, but he said, "With the right training and the right work, I think we'll be fine by the fall."
NOTES: Quarterback Lance Rice sprinted off the field after practice, heading for the hospital where wife Mindy was being induced for their first baby, expected to be a boy . . . The Utes will get new game pants for next year, and they're wearing last year's game pants in practices now, rather than shorts or haphazard attire . . . For many drills, the scout teams are staying with their respective units as offense or defense. When the Ones are up, the Twos provide the opposition, such as first offense working against the second offense lining up as defenders. "It's spring practice, you don't want to break up scout teams," said Meyer. "It's just running plays against looks. In spring everybody gets a shot, the third-stringers get a shot. Fall is much different."