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Utah Utes football notebook: Vroman erasing worries about replacing Sakoda as kicker

Utah receiver Jereme Brook outruns his teammates during the Utes' scrimmage Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Utah receiver Jereme Brook outruns his teammates during the Utes' scrimmage Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Michael Brandy, Deseret News

Besides getting settled on a starter at the quarterback position, perhaps the biggest concern for Ute football coaches in camp has been the kicking game. Replacing a player such as all-American Louie Sakoda, a three-year starter at punter and placekicker, is a tough task.

After Thursday's scrimmage, coach Kyle Whittingham was all smiles while talking about the kicking game.

Ben Vroman, who handled kickoffs the last two years, is No. 1 on the depth chart at placekicker, and he showed why Thursday.

He went 7-for-7 on the day, making field goals from 49 and 43 yards as well as from 39, 36, 35, 31 and 26 yards.

"I was very pleased with the placekicking today," Whittingham said. "We did a bunch of placekicking in live situations, and Ben Vroman was clearly the top guy and right now unless something dramatic happens, he'll be handling the kickoffs and the placekicking."

Besides Vroman, freshman Nick Marsh made a 33-yard field goal and Joe Phillips a 36-yarder.

"It was a good day for the specialists group," said Vroman, a senior out of Skyline High. "Spring was a little rough for us, but the first part of the camp we've definitely taken some steps forward."

Whittingham also said punter Sean Sellwood was back in action after sitting out earlier in the week and did a "nice job" punting the ball Thursday.

"I'm very happy with the whole kicking battery," said Whittingham. "It's all way ahead of where we were in the spring."

NOT GOOD ENOUGH: While much of the focus has been on the offensive side of the ball, the defense has been improving each day of practice. However, new defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake was not happy with the defense at Thursday's scrimmage.

"The guys are energetic and running around, but we had too many missed assignments and too many missed tackles," he said. "Nobody was great today. We were just good. But good is not good enough for this program."

Sitake said the defense did rest seven starters as a precaution, but he still expected more.

"It was an opportunity for our inexperienced guys to get in there and play some ball and get some experience," he said. "But it wasn't clean enough and crisp enough. We had a lot of mistakes. We need to stay focused on our fundamentals and our technique. We're anxious for the next time to go live."

ROBLES BACK: Lost amid all the talk about the three-way battle for quarterback is the return of Griff Robles, the highly recruited QB from Spanish Fork High School.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Robles returned from an LDS mission in June and wasn't expected to play this fall but was given the scholarship saved for James Aiono, who didn't qualify academically for this fall.

If Robles doesn't get a chance at quarterback, he may have a future as a defender, a another former quarterback from Utah County, PaulKruger.

Robles took some snaps at the end of Thursday's scrimmage and after getting picked off by Thor Salanoa he laid out the defender with a hard tackle on the sideline.

When asked about it later, Sitake said, "That was the hardest hit all day."

EXTRA POINTS: Rice-EcclesStadium will have two new banners on the west side of the stadium this year, commemorating the 2004 season and Fiesta Bowl victory and the 2008 season and SugarBowl victory ... Jake Orchard, an all-state receiver for Highland in 2005, has joined the team as a walk-on after recently returning from an LDS mission. He was recruited out of high school by several schools for football but opted to accept a scholarship to play basketball for Weber State as a freshman ... The next scrimmage will be Tuesday at the stadium with the final scrimmage set for Aug. 22.