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Here's why Kyle Whittingham says Utes made progress in second spring scrimmage

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham got what he wanted in Friday's scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium: improvement from the first situational gathering just six days earlier.

“Overall I thought it was an outstanding scrimmage,” he summarized.

Whittingham said the execution level on offense was better, with less errors overall. He noted fewer penalties and no turnovers.

“Overall I think the offense took a step forward,” Whittingham said. “The quarterback play looked very clean. The offensive line did a lot better job this week than last week. There was more space in there to run the football.”

Quarterback Tyler Huntley also cited better play.

“It went very good. We improved, definitely, from last week. We just need to get a couple more touchdowns,” he said. “But we’re not full tackle so the ball placement is different and the situations will be different.”

However, as an offense and as a defense, Huntley said the Utes did good things in the scrimmage.

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said its all about system mastery for his group. The Utes have two installations yet to do, two more sets of plays that are going to go in.

“Got to master those, but then keep going back and master the fundamentals and techniques required to the existing schemes as well,” Ludwig explained.

There were some explosive runs in Utah’s second spring scrimmage. Ludwig noted that the backs ran hard.

“It was more enjoyable to watch than it was last week,” Ludwig said when asked about the run blocking. “So we’re getting better and that’s what spring football is all about.”

Even so, Ludwig added that it’s still a work in progress.

“But we’re making progress, so I’m encouraged with it,” Ludwig said.

Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley expressed optimism as well. He said the first unit on defense looked solid. The twos, though, didn’t draw as much praise.

“We need to do a better job as coaches of making sure those guys are ready. Depth in a huge deal in the Pac-12 and if you don’t have your backups schooled up and ready to go you’re going to struggle,” Scalley said. “It doesn’t matter if a guy goes down with a broken shoelace, the next guy has got to get in and we’ve got to be able to roll.”

Scalley acknowledged he wanted to see more takeaways in the scrimmage and additional plays made.

However, after 12 practices, Scalley said he was really pleased with how the starters have performed.

“Spring is all about improving fundamentals and techniques of the game,” Scalley said. “It’s not about having a big defensive package, you know, and so I thought we got better.”

Whittingham expressed continued confidence in the defense.

Special teams, meanwhile, has been more up and down as the Utes seek replacements for graduated stars Matt Gay and Mitch Wishnowsky.

“We’re making progress. We had a couple of awful days earlier in spring that were just brutal,” Whittingham said. “But we bounced back and things are looking more like what we’re used to. Now we’ve got big shoes to fill. We’ve had the best specialists in the nation fo several years now and so the standard is very high.”

Utah concludes spring ball next week. The Utes practice Tuesday and Thursday before capping things off with the Red-White Game on Saturday.

EXTRA POINTS: No statistics were kept in the scrimmage. … Whittingham said that running back T.J. Green is starting to “really come of age” and is making plays with more physicality. … The spring game won’t feature a lot of players from the first unit. Whittingham said two-thirds of them probably won’t play at all and the other third are likely to just play in the first half. … Depth on the offensive line and at linebacker is still being sought, Whittingham said, and will go into camp this fall.