With the first of three scheduled scrimmages in the books, at least one position is beginning to take shape for the University of Utah football team. Darryl Poston is beginning to show the talent and abilities that had the coaching staff so excited when he transferred from USC. The 5-foot-11, 197-pounder is trying to grab the No. 1 running back spot for the fall.

Coming into the spring practices, who would emerge as the go-to running back was a big question. Due to some injuries, and a great performance in the scrimmage, Poston appears to be the guy stepping to the front.

"Poston is the player that comes to mind. He had an outstanding day," coach Kyle Whittingham said on what impressed him most after watching the offense go against the defense. "He has had a troubled career here as far as injuries and putting the ball on the ground, but if he can run the way he ran today come fall, we have ourselves another outstanding back."

Whittingham noted that the job is certainly not locked up. Mike Liti, who missed the scrimmage with an injured shoulder, and Darrell Mack, out with nagging hamstring issues, both have experience and will push Poston, but the coach also said that the starting job can not be won while sitting on the sideline.

Poston's performance stood out on a day that the defense appeared to be a little ahead of the offense. He carried the ball 14 times for 79 yards and four touchdowns while catching two passes for 52 yards. He looked like the fastest player on the field, just one of the traits that running backs coach Dave Schramm said can lift him from an average back to the potential all-conference variety.

"He's got tremendous quickness, but he is also very fast, faster than most guys," Schramm said. "Sometimes he has to trust his vision a little bit more, not so much his speed. He's become a much better pass-blocker. He's a very strong guy for his build. . . . He needs to continue to look to break tackles, which he's done this spring, and get yards after contact and hang on to the ball. We're pleased with him to this point."

QUARTERBACKS: While the running back situation is clearing slightly, the battle of the quarterbacks continues to rage. Brett Ratliff got the repetitions at No. 1 while Tommy Grady stepped in to take his turn at leading the offense. It did not seem to matter which quarterback, including redshirt-freshman Kevin Dunn, was on the field, the passing game simply was not clicking. Ratliff was 6-of-16 for 108 yards while Grady finished 7-for-20 and 115 yards.

"Average today, just average," Whittingham said of the quarterbacks, "This is practice number eight and this was probably their least productive day of the spring."

RECEIVERS: Brent Casteel is back to improve on last season's freshman year, but there were two other young receivers who stepped up in the scrimmage and big things are expected from them in the fall. Sophomore Marquis Wilson — two catches for 20 yards — and freshman Sean Smith — four catches and 62 yards — are part of what Whittingham calls probably his deepest position.

"Marquis is going to have a much bigger role this year," Whittingham said. "He's going to be a feature guy and he's got to produce.

"Sean Smith is going to be a special player in this program if he keeps up on the course he's on right now," added Whittingham.

DEFENSE: While the defense played well in stopping the offense, it also could have created far more turnovers. On at least on four occasions players put themselves in great position but had the ball bounce off their hands instead of pulling it in for an interception.


E-mail: mblack@desnews.com