The Utah football team closed out their second week of fall camp with a full-pads practice Saturday morning that included an extra heap of conditioning in the heat of the early afternoon for good measure.
The squad responded well, considering they completed a two-a-day session just the day before. A sluggish session might have been understandable, but the last practice of the week was anything but as the team live up to their reputation of being a blue-collar, hard working team.
"Of course you're going to be beat up in two-a-days, especially for those second sessions, and the day after is always tough too," admitted running back John White. "But you have to go out there and compete and go to work, because it's always going to be a grind. It's going to be a grind in the two-minute, it's going to be a grind in the game so we might as well get ready for that now."
Jordan Wynn had a similar perspective.
"You wake up, you don't know what day or date it is. You wake up at 6 A.M., come and eat, get dressed, it's tough but that's what camp is," Wynn acknowledged. "You come together with your teammates and grind it out."
The biggest issue of camp so far is the lack of depth at offensive line, which has taken hits almost day by day with new news of injuries to one lineman after another. The latest is Percy Taumoelau, the sophomore who was slated to backup Tony Bergstrom at right tackle per the most recent depth chart suffered an injury to his knee on Friday. The team is awaiting test results.
"Looking at our injuries, they're not season-ending, so we'll be getting almost everybody back," Wynn said. "When it's time, probably by the end of time, we'll get them back."
"Luckily all these injuries are bumps and bruises, so we can get everybody back," Jones commented as he provided some perspective on the topic.
All in all, while the offensive line is thin right now, the injury bug has been relatively kind to the Utes, which Whittingham acknowledged after Tuesday's scrimmage as the biggest positive of the session and really, through camp to that point.
"We had no significant injuries, and we're relatively healthy so far through camp," Whittingham stated. The only long-term injury the team has suffered came on day one as JUCO wide receiver Anthony Denham pulled a hamstring which has Utah thinking redshirt year for Denham.
Healthy as ever, the defensive line asserted itself Saturday morning as David Kruger had a field day and found himself on the other side of the line more often than on the defensive side of the ball. Star Lotulelei also had a strong day, along with Lei Talamavaio who has consistently produced since the pads have come on.
John White IV, in keeping with his comments, ground out hard-earned yardage against the wall that is becoming the Ute defensive line. Several plays found him stopped at or near the line of scrimmage, but White refused to quit as he continued driving his legs as he moved the pile for extra yardage.
Any success on the ground for the Ute offense is a positive, considering the strength of the defensive line, and the rotation of new faces on the offensive line. The inexperienced group suddenly thrust into action has hung in admirably, all things considered.
Redshirt freshmen Jason Gardner and Sam Tui'one along with JUCO transfer Samu Sitake have filled out the second unit offensive line and redshirt freshman Siaosi Aiono has found himself in the two deep.
Jon Hays, for the second day in a row had a positive session, and Whittingham categorized his progress as significant.
"I thought Jon Hays made some strides today. He continues to do a nice job, relative to not being here in spring," Whittingham commented. "With all he has on his plate with this offense because this is a pretty complicated offense, I think he's doing a pretty nice job."
Whittingham also singled out a play made by receiver-turned corner Mo Lee prior to the media observation period.
"Mo Lee had a really nice interception earlier in a team drill," Whittingham said of Lee, whom the coaching staff has been extremely high on.
To end practice, the Utes took their designated places to run gassers. The format is that the number of gassers run is tied to whether or not place kickers Nick Marsh and Coleman Petersen make their field goals. Unfortunately for the Utes, there was more running than desired to round out the first full week of camp.