The Utes assembled as a full squad for the first time on Thursday as they started to intensify their preparations for UCLA. The offense looked sharper than it had the previous three practices, showing a lot of progress from both the quarterbacks and the receiving corps.
The quarterback battle appears to be heating up, with all three quarterbacks starting to hit their stride. However, just as he seemed to be shaking the rust off, Brian Johnson sat out a majority of Thursday's practice with soreness in his injured knee. Despite the setback, coaches are not worried about Johnson's progress.
Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig is pleased with the progress his quarterbacks are making. "The quarterbacks are doing a nice job," he said. "They had a great off-season. A summer of preparation and work is really showing on the field right now. I'm really pleased with where they are. We've got a ton of work to do, a lot of improvements to make, but I think we're right on track."
The buzz topic around campus is obviously which quarterback will win the starter's job, and Coach Ludwig knows exactly what he's looking for in the starter. "[We're looking for] consistency in moving the football team, consistency in completing passes, and consistency in ball security," he explained.
On the Line
The offensive line is another spot where competition for playing time is heating up. With the departure of guard Eric Pettit from the program, several players are vying for playing time at both the center and the guard spots. Kyle Gunther is getting pushed hard by Jeremy Infererra at the center position. At guard, Zane Beadles leads a group of likely candidates to take Pettit's place. However, nobody has solidified their spot as of yet.
Overall offensive line coach Charlie Dickey is pleased with the group. "We're getting there," he stated. "We've still got a long way to go. We're looking for some guys that are going to be able to step in and do the job and earn a starting spot. The kids are working hard, but we need to get better."
With Gunther and Infererra battling for playing time, Dickey explained that the winner will be "the guy that's going to take control of that offense and lead the team, make the right calls and make perfect snaps and do the things that a good center's got to do."
One player that Dickey isn't concerned about is starting left tackle Tavo Tupola. "Tavo had a really great summer," Dickey explained. "He probably had the best summer he's ever had. He did a great job in the weight room, got himself a lot stronger, put on weight and so that was a good thing. I expect him to be the best offensive lineman in the conference."
In addition to Tupola, Coach Dickey is pleased with Jason Boone and some of the other veteran linemen. "I think a lot of those older guys had great summers, so I'm really excited about them," he said.
Redshirt freshman receiver Sean Smith spent Thursday in the pit while nursing a minor leg injury. He is expected to recover soon.