Utah's Scrimmage On Saturday Important In Developing Depth Chart
Officially, Utah started its fall camp eight days ago.
But the process of replacing numerous starters on both sides of the ball began long before fall camp got underway on Oct. 9. Now the next step in the process of determining who will be starting the season opener on Nov. 7 takes place on Saturday when the Utes have their first scrimmage of the fall camp.
It's arguably the second most important practice of Utah's 23 fall camp sessions, because it's the first of two planned scrimmages. It's one thing to shine in practice, and quite another to shine during a scrimmage and game.
“Tomorrow and next Saturday are two very important days and will be a big determining factor in the two-deep,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said on Friday morning. “Guys want to play, be on the two-deep, be on the travel roster, so tomorrow and next Saturday will really define that for the most part.”
The theme of Saturday's practice will be narrowing the competitors at the many open positions needing to be filled.
The only positions that seem to be intact are the; offensive line, wide receivers, and one spot among the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs. Other than that, it's a free for all for who will emerge for the season opener against Arizona.
Here's a look at the biggest position battles and what to expect from Saturday's live scrimmage.
*Jake Bentley, SR
*Cam Rising, SO
*Drew Lisk, SR
The battle to replace Tyler Huntley is currently a three-headed monster in the form of Bentley vs. Rising vs. Lisk. They all bring certain attributes to the team, and according to Whittingham, have all been sharing first team and live reps.
Why Saturday is so important to this battle is because Whittingham is hoping to narrow down the battle between two quarterbacks following the conclusion of the scrimmage, He then hopes to narrow down a starter by the following Saturday after that scrimmage. That would give the presumed starter TWO weeks to take the first team reps ahead of the Nov. 7 opener.
There's no clear front-runner at this point, but all indications are that the battle will come down to Bentley, the grad transfer from South Carolina and Rising, the youngster who transferred from Texas.
Either way, expect Saturday to narrow down the candidates to two — with the potential of even narrowing it all the way down to one.
*Devin Brumfield, JR
*Jordan Wilmore, SO
*Ty Jordan, FR
Finding a replacement for all-time leading rusher Zack Moss will be just as difficult as finding one for Huntley. And if there's anything people know abut Whittingham, he loves to have a running back serve as his bell cow and have a few others serve as change-of-pace guys who get limited snaps and carries.
According to Whittingham, it appears to be a two-horse race between Brumfield and Wilmore, the only running backs on the roster who have any carries of note in games. Jordan is the true freshman who's electric with the ball in his hands and it appears he's shown out well in the first week of camp.
“He’s got to be consistent,” Utes running backs coach Kiel McDonald said of Jordan. “He’s got to be able to align, assign, know his responsibilities and physically, be able to execute the techniques that I’m asking him to do. Can’t just show flash on day one, day three, day four, day seven. It has to be consistent.”
*R.J. Hubert, S, JR
*Vonte Davis, S, SR
*JaTravis Broughton, CB, SO
*Malone Mataele, CB, SO
*Bronson Boyd, CB, JR
*Clark Phillips III, CB, FR
*Aaron Lowe, CB, SO
*Nate Ritchie, S, FR
The biggest questions marks entering the 2020 season is the secondary, which must replace all five starters from last seasons team in safeties Julian Blackmon and Terrell Burgess and cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson, Josh Nurse and Javelin Guidry.
The safety position seems pretty set with Hubert and Davis as the starters, especially Hubert who started last year in placement of the injured Blackmon. Davis is a senior who has college experience (Blinn College) and is a senior so he understands the scheme.
Whittingham has reiterated multiple times this past week that Broughton is the No. 1 cornerback, the man taking over for Johnson. He appeared in all 14 games last year as a freshman on special teams, and four of them on defense.
Boyd, who transferred from Texas Tech earlier in his career, has made the switch from wide receiver to cornerback over the summer, and all indications are that he's made the switch seamlessly.
Finally, a lot of praise and speculation has been laid upon the shoulders on Phillips, the highest-rated recruit to sign with the Utes out of high school. He's been getting reps at both the cornerback and nickel position and is expected to battle with Mataele at the nickel position.
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