Fall Camp: Week 1 Recap and Analysis

Our insiders give their take on week 1 of fall camp

Practices Attended (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday AM)
Offensive MVP: RB Troy McCormick
Defensive MVP: CB Reggie Porter

So far through Fall Camp, the offense as a whole worked extremely hard to get used to the fast paced offense that Coach Erickson requires of them. While the Utes still have a lot work to do, they have shown significant signs of improvement in several key areas that would indicate that they are going to have a better season in 2013. The biggest areas of improvement are in the trenches on both sides of the ball. It's very clear that Utah's efforts in recruiting offensive lineman have paid off as this group is finally deep and talented. To anybody who's been paying attention to Fall Camp, it's pretty obvious that running back Troy McCormick has been the offensive standout in week 1. The freshman is small in size (5'10-165) but has proven to be a big time talent that can do a variety of things. McCormick's biggest attribute is his speed and agility. He's incredibly quick and can change directions on a dime. He's also shown a tremendous amount of skill at catching the ball, and because of that, the coaches will toy with the idea of moving him to wide receiver, where he could be a big asset in the slot, both catching and running the ball. Simply put, it's hard to imagine that McCormick won't see playing time this Fall.

The defensive line, as a whole, looks to be much better than last year, after a disappointing season from every other player not named Star. We continually hear from the coaches that Utah doesn't rebuild on the defensive line, rather, they reload, and that looks to be very true this year. While there improvements in some areas, there are other areas that are still a concern and need to be addressed in the coming weeks, primarily, safety and wide receiver. The wide receivers are very talented, but have not shown any real consistency at catching the ball, which is something that must be fixed right away. At corner, freshman Reggie Porter has been somewhat of a surprise to fans and media, as Reggie had just an okay Spring practice, but has really stepped his game up this Fall and is showing that he most likely will be a starter at corner come August 29th. Porter has been singled out by both Kyle Whittingham and Sharrieff Shah as the most consistent corner through the first week of camp, and has impressed the coaches with his attention to detail and playmaking ability. Porter has totaled up 2 INT's thus far in Fall Camp that we've seen. At safety, Eric Rowe is proven and we know what to expect from him, but there is an ongoing battle at strong safety between Tyron Morris Edwards, Charles Henderson and Quade Chappuis. After those four, there is essentially no depth at the safety position and so the health of those four is very important.

The big thing to watch this week is who can separate themselves from the rest of the pack. There are some key positions that are still up for grabs, and we should start seeing who those players will be this week. Utah still needs to identify a pair of starting corners and nickel back, the third wide receiver, a pair of linebackers, the second string running back and a starting strong safety. Some of those positions are mostly locked up (VJ Fehoko and Jared Norris at LB & Anthony Denham at WR) but the others positions are still mostly wide open. This week will be key at identifying who those players will most likely be.

Practices Attended (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
Offensive MVP: WR Kenneth Scott
Defensive MVP: CB Reggie Porter

Offensively they looked like a group trying to learn a new offense, a new tempo, implement a host of new players, a new coach...catch my drift? They looked like a team in their first week of a lot of new changes would be expected to look. There were moments when Travis Wilson looked great, and moments when he looked not-so-great. He has things to work on, specifically his deep ball, but his reads and progression already look better than they did in the spring. The receiver corps looks improved and ready to do some damage. The running backs are very deep, including surprise freshman Troy McCormick. Every one of them has seen reps and they've all given the coaches reason to play them this fall. Overall, there is room to improve but they're off to a good start. Tempo, conditioning, and cleaning up some little mistakes are some of the things they need to focus on this coming week.

Defensively there are a lot of positions still up for grabs. Injuries have played a part in some of the unsurety which you don't like to see this early in the season but it happens and guys need to step up. The strong safety position still needs to be solidified and hopefully we'll see that very soon. Charles Henderson is currently penciled as the #1 SS followed by Tyron Morris-Edwards and Quade Chappuis but I expect that to shuffle around a bit before the starter is named. The corner position is getting stronger each day that goes by. Reggie Porter had a great week of practice and has stepped into the mix of potential starters come gameday. The D-line and linebackers did a good job this week of getting pressure in the backfield but they need to work on being more consistent, especially in the pass game and quarterback contain. Look for the defense to continue to adjust to injuries this week while still looking for full-time starters at a number of positions.

On special teams, the kicking game still needs to be solidified. Look for more reps and an increased focus to be placed on the kickers this week as they try to lock down one legitimate starter.

Practices Attended (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday)
Offensive MVP: QB Travis Wilson
Defensive MVP: LB Gionni Paul

While we didn't get to see a ton with the 1's and 2's, the bits we did get to see were fairly impressive on both sides of the ball. The pace and tempo at practice is very high, and is getting close to where Erickson wants it. Travis Wilson is the man, and it isn't close. Barring injury, Wilson is your definitive starter in week 1. He's added a ton of good weight and has great command on the offense. It's scary to think how good he can be and how much he'll improve between now and the end of the season. At running back, Kelvin York continues to separate himself, but the surprise at camp has been true freshman Troy McCormick. McCormick is fast, quick, shifty, and runs hard. Throw in the fact that he can catch, and the coaches will get him on the field. Still too many drops out of the receivers, but you can tell that they're all comfortable with Wilson. The offensive line was up and down, but part of that can be attributed to the improved defensive line. The starters on the O-line aren't changing. All the battles are for backup spots. Overall, the offense is getting close to where they need to be, and the depth at quarterback has to make you smile.

There's so much to still figure out on defense. With Reshawn Hooker taking a medical retirement and Tevin Carter's situation still in doubt, Utah continues to shuffle players in trying to find the best fits. What stood out to me on defense was the size. They're Pac 12 level now, led by some gigantic freshmen like Sam Tevi and Filipo Mokofisi. The defensive line looks improved in terms of both ability and athleticism. Tenny Palepoi is going to be the rock and make this defense go. A lot of concern out of the linebackers still with Brian Blechen not being 100% and there still being issues in coverage at times. Uaea Masina is going to factor into things and if they can get Gionni Paul, who was probably the best linebacker all week, eligible, the problem may fix itself. The corners looked good with Thomas and Porter leading the way, but the safeties are such a mishmash of players that it's hard to get a good gauge on them.

Only watching special teams 1 day, and just the kickers, Utah still has some work to do. Whitt has to be nervous.

With this upcoming week, I expect to see some of the freshmen tail off a bit. They'e never been through a camp like and the inevitable hitting of the wall is coming. The scrimmage will be an important part of the week in paring down candidates for the third wide receiver spot as well starting spots at defensive tackle, cornerback, all of the linebacker spots, and safety opposite Eric Rowe. Utah also needs to get healthy.

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