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What to look for at Utah’s spring game on Saturday

The Utes conclude spring practices with its annual spring game at noon at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It will be televised by the Pac-12 Network

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham talks to the team after the Red-White game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 13, 2019.
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham talks to the team after the Red-White game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 13, 2019.
Silas Walker, Deseret News

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is looking forward to offering the public a sneak preview of his 2021 team Saturday.

The Utes conclude spring practices with their annual spring game at noon at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

“Hopefully, everyone gets a good flavor of what we’re all about when you’re able to watch the spring game on Saturday,” Whittingham said.

Because of the pandemic, no fans were allowed to attend games last season. So, for the first time since the 2019 season, fans will be welcomed into Rice-Eccles Stadium. The school will allow up to 6,500 fans to attend.

“It will be great,” Whittingham said. “Not everyone will get to go — typically we get about 10,000 for the spring game. It’s a step in the right direction. Just hoping that we’re at full capacity in the fall. That may be a little optimistic but that’s what we’re hoping for.”

The spring game will include four, 10-minute quarters with a running clock in the fourth along with an eight-minute halftime.

The roster is being split into a Red team and a Black team.

The Red team will be led by Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer; wide receivers Britain Covey and Solomon Enis; running back Micah Bernard; linebacker Nephi Sewell; and cornerbacks Malone Mataele and JaTravis Broughton.

The Black team is led by true freshman quarterback Peter Costelli, Oklahoma transfer T.J. Pledger, wide receiver Jaylen Dixon, safety Vonte Davis, cornerback Clark Phillips III, defensive tackle Tennessee Pututau and defensive end Maxs Tupai.

Brewer has solidified his spot as No. 1 on the depth chart. The Baylor transfer has separated himself from the other quarterbacks — Costelli, Ja’Quinden Jackson, Cooper Justice and Bryson Barnes.

Sophomore Cam Rising, who earned the starting job prior to the 2020 campaign, did not participate in spring drills after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the season-opener and subsequently underwent shoulder surgery.

Brewer and Rising will battle for the starting job this fall in August. Brewer said he’s been developing good chemistry with his receivers.

“It’s been good. It’s improved day by day, week by week. On our own, we’d throw during winter conditioning in the offseason,” he said. “We got a head start there. Throughout the spring it’s improved every day. Those guys have made a lot of plays.”

At running back, three tailbacks are competing — Bernard, Pledger and LSU transfer Chris Curry.

Bernard has been atop the depth chart at that position but Whittingham said this week that Pledger and Curry “have definitely closed the gap. Micah has continued to perform exceptionally well this spring. He’s still the No. 1 tailback. But both Chris and T.J. have shown a lot of progress.

“What they need to do is feel comfortable with their assignments and their role in the offense. They’re starting to do that and settle in,” he continued. “They’re going to be contributors as well. We’ll see what happens through fall camp, whether or not we’re going to have one tailback getting the majority of reps or if it’s by committee. It’s a good problem to have right now. We have three guys that we think are all very capable.”

On the defensive side of the ball, one position to watch is at cornerback, which features Phillips, Broughton, Malone, Faybian Marks and Zamaiah Vaughn.

Whittingham said he feels good about the depth at that spot.

“A lot of good things have transpired this spring. A lot of players have gotten much better, which is the objective. We’ve identified some strengths of the team,” Whittingham added. “It’s been a good, productive spring session so far. … Looking forward to getting back into the stadium with at least some fans. It will be good to get in front of fans again. We haven’t been in front of fans since 2019.”

Tickets to the spring game can be purchased for $10, or in a bundle of four tickets for $22, either online or by phone at 801-581-8849.

Student tickets will be available the day of the game at the stadium. Students can find out about claiming tickets from The MUSS social media accounts.

All funds raised through ticket sales to the spring game will go to the Ty Jordan Memorial Scholarship fund, established in January to honor the legacy of Jordan, who died in December 2020.

Face masks will be required for entry and must be worn at all times inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.