SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said it was a necessity to try and get some separation. The quarterback competition is that tight as the Utes closed in on the final three weeks of preparation before their season opener Aug. 31 against North Dakota.
On Wednesday, the quarterbacks saw live action — taking hits as part of their audition for the starting job.
“It was good, get a little contact in there. You’ve just got to be ready for when the season comes,” said returning starter Troy Williams, who is getting a vast majority of the reps in practice along with sophomore Tyler Huntley. “But it was good to go out there with the defense and get some live action.”
Whittingham noted the importance of doing so.
“It’s so close that to get your true evaluation, your absolutely best evaluation, you go live,” he said. “Then you can see escapability, who can extend plays and make plays.”
That included the QB run game and who was most effective at it.
“We saw some things that we were able to evaluate,” Whittingham said. “But no cut and dried, you know, clear cut picture of how the hierarchy should be.”
Utah is relatively deep at the position with Alabama transfer Cooper Bateman also in the mix. Even so, Whittingham acknowledged that live work is the absolute best evaluation but it’s also the riskiest.
As such, the quarterbacks likely won’t go live in Saturday’s scrimmage — perhaps only doing so in a limited capacity like a red zone drill.
Whittingham said it’s too early to talk about a two-quarterback system.
“I’m not a fan of it, just generally speaking. It seldom is real effective,” he explained. “I guess it can be. There’s exceptions. But we’ll keep working through things.”
Whittingham added that they’ve still got to see separation. If not, maybe both will play early until there is some distance between them.
“We’ve got to come away with the right guy,” Whittingham said. “The most important thing is we come away with the right guy. If there’s never separation and you’re playing two guys all season long, we’ll just have to see what happens. But that’s not ideal.”
STILL WAITING: Whittingham said the chances of wide receiver Derrick Vickers and defensive back Tareke Lewis joining the Utes this season is a “little more dim than it was three or four days ago.” The signees are still wrapping up junior college academic work.
If Lewis isn’t able to make it this fall, Whittingham said he’s got a redshirt year available and the Utes will bring him into the program in January. Vickers, meanwhile, is still waiting on a couple of things.
“So I’m saying it’s 50/50 at best,” Whittingham said.
YOUNG ONE: Sophomore Bradlee Anae is a projected starter on a defensive line featuring three seniors — tackles Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi, as well as end Kylie Fitts.
“They still look at me like a kid, which I basically am,” Anae said of the situation. “But I just try to do my best on the field and not worry about how old I am.”
The 6-foot-3, 259-pound defensive end added that he’s grateful for the opportunity to be with the experienced trio.
“I just want to do my best every day to make sure that there’s not a big drop off and I can play in the games and be reliable,” Anae said.
ON THE LIST: Five Utes made the 48-man watch list for the 2017 Polynesian College Player of the Year Award. The candidates include Lotulelei, Mokofisi, linebacker Kavika Luafatasaga, linebacker Sunia Tauteoli and offensive lineman Salesi Uhatafe.
EXTRA POINTS: Utah is projected by Jerry Palm of cbssports.com to play Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 29 . . . Offensive coordinator Troy Taylor noted that the Utes got a lot of contact in on Wednesday and that Thursday’s session was a little bit lighter. He said the team did a good job in both practices . . . Whittingham said there was no update on the status of injured projected starters Chase Hansen and Lo Fakemala. “Just playing the waiting game,” he said. . . . After three seasons as a wide receiver, senior Kenric Young has officially made the move to cornerback.