SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham joked with the media following Saturday morning’s closed scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium. After noting that things were “good” on the field, he delivered a zinger.
“You guys missed one heck of a scrimmage,” Whittingham said.
The media and general public were not allowed to watch the first scrimmage of fall camp. However, Whittingham and others offered insight to how things went.
Whittingham noted that the situational gathering was productive and the Utes came out of it pretty healthy.
“The ones looked sharp,“ Whittingham said. “Saw some good things.”
Individual standouts included freshman running back Jordan Wilmore. Whittingham said he “really showed up” in the scrimmage. He added that there were very few penalties and a couple of takeaways by the defense.
“But overall a productive day, a long day. We had 120-plus snaps in addition to special teams work on top of that,” Whittingham said. “So it was a good three-hour session.”
OFFENSE: Senior quarterback Tyler Huntley smiled as he met with reporters. He enjoyed the scrimmage.
“It went good, a lot of great plays out there,” said Huntley, who noted that the defense also did a great job. “It was just another day at the work office.”
Huntley explained that he got a lot of reps in and worked out of a lot of different situations. He added that the new offense is installed and it’s all about fine-tuning at this point.
“I thought there were a lot of positives. The kids played hard. There was a good amount of physicality in this scrimmage,” said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. “There’s obviously some things execution-wise at this point in camp that need to develop and come along much further, but overall good for the 10th day of work and the 25th day of running this offense.”
Ludwig added that Huntley did a really nice job of extending some plays with his feet and throwing the ball on time. Play action and the quarterback run game, he continued, were good.
“So I’m pleased with his progress,” Ludwig said.
Positive developments are happening elsewhere, too.
The offensive line, Whittingham said, is starting to look like a cohesive unit. There were very few issues. The offense was penalized for just one false start and had no exchange problems. Whittingham acknowledged that a dropped pass or two on the outside needs to be cleaned up, but Huntley looked sharp and the Utes connected on deep throws. Whittingham said there were three or four of the latter that were right on the money.
Sophomore Jaylen Dixon was singled out by Whittingham as being as good of any deep threat in the country. The coach said he’s “blazing fast.”
Ludwig agreed that Dixon showed his speed in the scrimmage.
“He’s developing into an every down player, which you appreciate not having to use him just as a specialty player,” Ludwig said. “But he’s a real weapon for us.”
Ludwig also had good things to say about Demari Simpkins. He said the senior is “a very good football player” and such a fast learner that doesn’t repeat mistakes. Ludwig explained that he appreciates the work ethic Simpkins has and his football IQ.
Wilmore led the running backs. Senior Zack Moss, who reportedly suffered an undisclosed injury earlier in the week, didn’t take any hits in the scrimmage. Sophomore Devin Brumfield and junior Devonta’e Henry-Cole were also credited with good performances. Freshman Charlie Vincent also received recognition for his work with the threes. Whittingham cited his quickness and toughness.
DEFENSE: Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley liked what he saw from the projected starters in the scrimmage.
“Ones flew around and did some nice things,” he said. “Obviously it being thud tempo you don’t know whether they would make the tackle, make the sack in any given situation, but the main thing is just execution and flying around.”
The ones, he continued, did a really nice job. The twos, though, are still not ready yet.
“We’ve got to bring those backups along. A couple of positions are doing a nice job. For the most part, the twos are off the pace,” Scalley said. “That’s our job as coaches. That’s where we make our money. Because in the Pac-12 you’re going to have injuries.”
As for the scrimmage in specific, Scalley thought the defense did some nice red-zone work as situational football was a big part of the gathering.
Scalley was impressed with the No. 1 defensive line that includes preseason all-conference honorees Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu and John Penisini.
“What’s not to like about those guys?” Scalley said.
The need for disciplined pass-rush lanes, though, is something he said showed up a little bit in the scrimmage.
Linebackers Francis Bernard and Devin Lloyd, along with the safeties and corners, were acknowledged by Scalley for playing well.
Whittingham said senior safety Julian Blackmon had a nice pick and that junior cornerback Jaylon Johnson did some really good things. Bernard and the front four were also mentioned for notable performances.
“I saw a really ready defense if anything,” Blackmon said. “The secondary looked really good today. Of course, there’s always going to be some plays where you make mistakes, but those are little mistakes that we can fix. So just seeing the way my guys were flying around, we’re just really excited to get it going.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: Good news on the kicking front: Whittingham said the three competitors for the job — Andrew Strauch, Jadon Redding and Nels Haltom — took a step forward in the scrimmage.
“But there’s no separation,” said Whittingham, who noted that they’re all right around 70%. He’d like to see them around 80%.
“The good news is Matt Gay at this exact spot and time last fall camp was 68% with his kicks. But he just kept getting better and better. So we’re looking for someone to separate themselves and then really take charge.”