When it comes to the health of the Utah Utes, head coach Kyle Whittingham says things are getting better.

Less than a week before Thursday's season opener against Utah State, injured starters Walter Watts (knee scope), Koa Misi (back) and Caleb Schlauderaff (knee) saw varying degrees of participation in practice.

The opening-game status of Misi and Schlauderaff, explained Whittingham, will likely come down to the wire.

Watts, however, is now considered "probable" for the game. Unless things change over the weekend — such as swelling — the junior will likely be able to play.

"It's huge," Whittingham said. "He's a starter. Any time you get a starter back, that's a big plus. We're hoping for that, and we should know on Monday."

If Watts is able to play, Whittingham said Utah's starting offensive line against the Aggies will likely feature Zane Taylor at center; Watts and Tevita Stevens at right and left guard, respectively; with Zane Beadles at left tackle and Tony Bergstrom at right tackle.

NOISY PRACTICES: A portion of the past couple of practices have taken place with crowd noise blaring over speakers.

"Neither of our quarterbacks have every played in an atmosphere like they will on Thursday night," Whittingham said. "So the more we can replicate that in practice the better."

The noise, however, is really set to prepare all of the new Utes for upcoming games at San Jose State and at Oregon.

"Our home crowd is very intelligent," Whittingham explained. "When we're on offense, they don't get real loud because they understand that we've got signals to convey and so forth."

QB BATTLE: Terrance Cain took a majority of the snaps with the No. 1 offense late in Saturday's practice. Jordan Wynn, the other competitor for the starting job, left practice with an ice pack on his right arm.

Whittingham didn't think it was anything serious, just a bump or bruise.

The developments, though, haven't prompted a decision on who'll take the first snap Thursday.

"No updates," Whittingham said. "It's all going well."

CALM BEFORE THE STORM: Utah's last weekend before the season starts won't involve a lot of rest and relaxation.

"This time of year there's no such a thing," Whittingham said. "... A little bit of rest, maybe, but your mind is always going. This time of year your mind never shuts off, it's football season."

Whittingham said the Utes will take Sunday off to "rejuvenate their legs and come back fresh on Monday."

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com