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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Utah Utes face busy week of camp ahead

By Dirk Facer, Deseret News

Published: Mon, Aug. 11 6:38 a.m. MDT

 Kendal Thompson passes during University of Utah football practice in Salt Lake City, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014.

Kendal Thompson passes during University of Utah football practice in Salt Lake City, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014.

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham called the first week of fall camp “a success.” Whittingham gave his positive evaluation after the Utes completed their first double day early Saturday evening.

“Great start. I think we’re on pace in all areas — offense, defense, special teams,” he said. “We’re understanding the tempo we need to play at offensively. We completely understand that. Execution is always a work in progress, but like I’ve mentioned, it’s gotten better each day.”

Following six straight days of practice, the Utes took Sunday off before they embark on a busy week featuring three doubles days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and a pair of scrimmages (Tuesday, Saturday).

“I think (the day off) comes at a good time as far as following a double day and in between another double day. So it’s a good time to give them a break and get off their feet,” Whittingham said. “But it’s only good if they utilize it to their advantage. They’ve got to stay off their feet and hydrate and take care of themselves, which we expect them to do.”

Camp resumes Monday morning at Ute Field.

IMPROVED PASSING: An obvious area of emphasis in camp is improving Utah’s passing game. The Utes completed just 53.2 percent of their throws (208 of 391) last season, worst in the Pac-12.

“We’ve got to be great at what we call ‘pitch-and-catch.’ We’ve got to have a high completion percentage. We’ve got to make high percentage throws,” Whittingham explained. “Now you’ve still got to stretch the defense. You’ve still got to take your shots over the top to keep people honest. But we have to throw the ball at a much higher efficiency rate than we did last year.

“Our completion percentage last year was nowhere near good enough,” he added. “We’ve got to get that up and the way to do that is to throw those routes that are high completion routes.”

It all ties together, Whittingham said, in a more up-tempo scheme like what Utah is running under new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen. He noted that the short and intermediate routes keep the chains moving and get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand quicker, which takes some of the stress off of pass protection.

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham acknowledged that it’s “a possibility” that quarterback Kendal Thompson could see live action during a segment of one of the upcoming scrimmages. A final decision, however, has yet to be made. ... Freshman defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei continues to draw praise as camp progresses. Whittingham told reporters that he’s going to make a name for himself and not just as Star’s little brother. ... Quarterback Travis Wilson is pleased with how things are going, thus far. He’s especially happy with how the younger guys are stepping up. “We’ve got a lot of speed on this team now. We’ve got a lot of good athletes,” Wilson said. “So it’s just getting them in the right positions and getting them the ball and letting them do the work.”

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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1. mufasta
American Fork, UT,
Aug. 11, 2014

This team has an edge about them that really hasn't been there for a few years. I think that Kyle is doing a great job bringing this group together. I am a little concerned about the durability of Wilson but am hopeful he will hold together. Go Utes.

2. thebigsamoan
Richmond, VA,
Aug. 11, 2014

“We’ve got a lot of speed on this team now. We’ve got a lot of good athletes,” Wilson said.

Great news for the Utes! With the rivalry suspended it's a shame we won't be seeing how the teams fair against each other this year and next. So since we're not playing each other, this Cougar fan wishes the Utes much success in their PAC 12 campaign this year.

3. oddman
, ,
Aug. 11, 2014

Good to hear of the positive attitudes of both coaches and players. This is where success begins. Hope Utes rise above the negative speculation by most Y fans, of which I am one. Good luck and bring noteriety to the great state of Utah.

4. Jefe-Ute
Richmond, VA,
Aug. 11, 2014

It's hard to not be excited about this upcoming season. Better O line play and less interceptions and this team could be a real threat. Hopefully everyone can stay healthy!

We need more updates on where Patrick is on the depth chart as well as Lowell and Gonzalez.

17 days!!

5. Jefe-Ute
Richmond, VA,
Aug. 11, 2014

Scratch the more info on depth chart. Just checked twitter. Thanks SL Trib and Matt Piper!