The second of week of Fall Camp answered some questions for Utah fans, but it also showed that there is a big problem on the defensive side of the ball. First, let look at the positives that came out of the second week of Fall Camp. As it stands right now, there are no major injuries on the offensive side of the ball so that is a huge positive. Another huge positive is that the offense has shown us that they have the ability to make the big plays that they were sorely lacking last year, and that will go a long way to getting this team back to a bowl . The best news that Ute fans may receive right now is that Travis Wilson is legitimately improving as a quarterback. After suffering a minor ankle injury in Tuesday's scrimmage, Wilson was very limited in the reps that he received in the following practices, which was received as a red flag by most fans. Wilson proved that the ankle was completely fine, and turned in his best scrimmage that he's had as a Ute. Another QB turned in an impressive week, and proved that his strong start to camp was not a fluke. Conner Manning continues to show that he is way ahead of the standard curve that most freshman QB's face, and continues to show that he is a legitimate contender for the backup spot behind Wilson. Manning doesn't have any qualities that will "wow" you, as he has average size, an above average arm and is certainly not a dual threat QB by any stretch of the imagination. Where Manning does excel is in his intangibles. He may already be the best QB on the team at going through his progressions and reads, and he has a knack for making the big play when necessary. Manning reminds me a lot of from Boise State QB Kellen Moore, and has shown that he will be a force to be reckoned with as a QB in the future.
Now let's look at some of the problems that surfaced during week two. As it stands right now, the safety position is a huge concern for Utah. During week two, 3 safeties were limited in their reps due to injuries, with one of them being the starting safety opposite of Eric Rowe, in Charles Henderson. Behind Charles Henderson is Tyron Morris Edwards, who did play well in the reps that he saw last year, but for some reason it seems that Morris Edwards is not capitalizing on the extra reps he's receiving due to Henderson being in the pit. Coach Whittingham acknowledges that there is a big concern with the playable depth at safety, as 2 of the top 4 safeties on the depth chart are still battling injuries. In order to shore up the safety position, Charles Henderson and Quade Chappuis need to get healthy, and Tyron Morris Edwards needs to be the consistent playmaker that he showed he could be during Spring ball. The only other problem that seems to have re-surfaced during week two is the inconsistency by the wide receivers at catching the ball. Coach Whitt has said that the top two receivers, Scott and Anderson, are not the ones struggling with catching the ball, rather it's the receivers behind them who are still fighting for that 3rd spot on the depth chart. Utah's receivers have struggled for a few years with inconsistency at catching the ball, and they must address that right away in week 3.
Last week started out shaky but by the end of the week things seemed to start to come together. The scrimmage on Tuesday was a mess. QB's were inaccurate, receivers were dropping balls, and DB's were out of position and mistake-prone. By Saturday, however, many of those mistakes were corrected and the offense and defense resembled something that looked almost game-ready.
Travis Wilson seems to be rounding into form. His early-week 3-for-7, 1 INT performance was quickly dwarfed by his 12-for-18 281 yd 2 TD weekend performance. The coaches were impressed by his outing and praised his development. I'd say if Utah had a game this week he'd be ready to go, but this next week will serve as ‘bonus time' to really lock him in for next Thursday's contest.
The defense still has some things to clean up in the secondary, but the defensive line and linebackers are ready to go. Blechen may not be 100% healthy and certainly isn't as healthy as the coaches are saying he is but the Utes have a lot of bodies at the position that I believe are ready to contribute. Jared Norris, Uaea Masina, and Travis Still are all guys that will probably see time if Blechen's tendinitis continues to hold him back. In the secondary, Keith McGill really needs to step up this week and prove he can be a reliable outside corner. Reggie Porter came up big this last week and looks like he'll push for a starting spot come game day. Charles Henderson took the SS spot from Tyron Morris-Edwards and had some impressive practices leading up to the scrimmage. This upcoming week will really determine who locks up starting jobs at CB and SS so keep an eye on these two spots.
Finally, the FG group finally found their kicker this past week as Andy Phillips pulled away from the others to lock up the job. Kyle Whittingham praised him on Thursday and he followed that up by making 3 of 4 kicks in Saturday's scrimmage. The special teams group now has their starting punter and kicker and will use this next week to get those final reps in and get game-ready.
As the team continues to progress, the injuries have continued to stack up as well. In order for this team to get to where they need to be once August 29th roles around, these injured players need to heal up and get back on the field. Of all the position groups, the secondary has taken the biggest hit. It seems as if almost every DB on the team has had some sort of injury this past week, so we can only hope that we've seen the worst of it and that they will not be as big of an issue in week 3 as they were in week 2.
Travis Wilson is the clear #1, and has been since day 1 of this past offseason. Schultz is #2. with Conner Manning and Brandon Cox battling it out for that #3 spot. Between Manning and Cox, Manning definitely had the better week in week 2 and in my opinion has began to separate himself from Cox for that #3 spot.
While the battle at running back continues to be very entertaining to watch unfold, it is pretty clear that Kelvin York has a hold of that starting spot. As for the #2 spot, in my opinion it's between either James Poole or Lucky Radley, with Karl WIlliams probably better off as a situational back. I am very intrigued by this group as a whole, and am anticipating that this week one of the backs will step it up and win that #2 spot.
As Kenneth Scott and Dres Anderson are the only "sure things" at receiver, the current battle for that third receiver is also an interesting battle to watch. Because Andre Lewis' fall camp has been hampered by an injury, he is a little bit behind of where he needs to be. Regarless, he and Anthony Denham are fighting to be that third receiver as week 3 will be a huge week for them both.
Other than, Eric Rowe, Justin Thomas, and most likely the defensive line, the remaining defensive spots are up for grabs. The linebackers have been very inconsistent and the Utes need some backers to step up and win those starting spots this next week. As to who will play that strong safety spot opposite of Rowe, it's really hard to say. With the combination of injuries, Tevin Carter unable to qualify, and lack of depth at the safety position, the Utes are in a tough situation coming up with another safety to play alongside Rowe. If Charles Henderson is able to get healthy, I think you see Henderson out there as Utah's other starting safety on August 29th. Justin Thomas has locked down one of the starting spots at corner. When it comes down to who will be that other starting corner, it's really tough to say. Whether it's Reggie Porter, Keith McGill, Wykie Freeman, or Davion Orphey, I think the Utes will be just fine and don't have too much to worry about at the corner position (unless injuries continue to be a factor).
Travis Wilson continued to separate himself from the rest of the pack and the battle for the backup continues. Adam Schulz is still likely to be the number 2 guy, but is getting a strong push from true freshman Brandon Cox and Conner Manning. It's doubtful that things have been settled yet, and this battle will likely continue throughout the upcoming week.
Kelvin York solidified his spot as the starter at running back, and to no one's surprise, James Poole has surged ahead as the backup. Troy McCormick didn't have the same impact this past week as week one, but they used him as both a running back and slot receiver, and receiver looks to be his intended position for the 2013 season. Dre'Vian Young had a solid week and may get more time. The injury to Jarrell Oliver is tough for the kid to swallow, and Lucky Radley has slipped back into the pack.
Anthony Denham had a great week and has put a stranglehold on the third wide receiver spot. Andre Lewis and Sean Fitzgerald are still pushing, but Denham created separation. Siale Fakailoatonga had a tremendous week and by all accounts has leaped up to third on the depth chart at tight end. Greg Reese isn't changing positions right now, but don't be surprised if it happens in the near future to solidify more depth at defensive end.
Defensively the biggest questions remain in the back seven. Name a definitive starter at linebacker. You can't. Brian Blechen's up and down week ended well with a pick in the Saturday scrimmage, but he's still not 100%. Utah needs Gionni Paul to be declared eligible. If so, he'll be your starting middle linebacker.
Cornerback hasn't really yielded any separation. Justin Thomas, Keith McGill, and Reggie Porter are probably going to be the starters when the new depth chart is released, but Wykie Freeman, and Davion Orphey continue to push. Orphey didn't have a good week, and will need to close strong in the final week to solidify playing time.
Eric Rowe. Then what? Charles Henderson moved to the top of the depth chart at strong safety, but was hobbled for a few practices this week. The news of Tevin Carter not making it to Utah was a blow to the team, and they continue to lack playable options. Micah Thomas made the move from quarterback, but that will be more of a long term move. The Utes need to figure this out immediately.
Fall Camp: Week 2 Recap
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