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Utah football: Big passes (and big scrambles) highlight last live scrimmage of spring

Published April 11, 2017 10:24 pm

Utah football notes • Quarterbacks endure heat to make big plays.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Less than an hour after Davir Hamilton had tackled him from behind, Troy Williams was verbally sparring with the freshman defensive end about who was faster.

When defenders can hit quarterbacks, Williams notices everybody gets a little more willing to talk trash.

"It's always good to get out there with the defense — they get real excited," Williams said. "It's good to get out there and get some competition."

But Williams, as well as fellow quarterback competitor Tyler Huntley, has taken his last sack until at least August. While Utah will suit up for Saturday's Red-White game and all quarterbacks will play, Tuesday was the last live practice of the spring for the signal-callers.

They spent a lot of time scrambling or trying to recover bad snaps, but also came through with a handful of the big passing plays promised in the offensive overhaul. Williams' opening drive featured a 41-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Fulks, who got a step past his defenders in the secondary. Huntley took longer to find openings, but did manage several Houdini-esque escapes from the pocket before finding a 58-yard completion to fullback Tyler Bell.

It wasn't until closer toward the end when the offense started making consistently big plays — third-string quarterback Cooper Bateman lit up the third unit for three big passes of at least 60 yards (with the benefit of a non-contact jersey). Williams also led the most touchdown drives of any passer, getting in the end zone in both red-zone possessions as well as on a two-minute drill.

"They made big plays," offensive coordinator Troy Taylor said. "I felt good about it coming off the field."

Running backs showing swagger

After not getting much of a sniff on the field last year, Devonta'e Henry-Cole has made it impossible for coaches to look away — and nearly impossible for defenders to tackle him on the first try.

The sophomore running back was one of the offensive stars of the scrimmage, scoring two touchdowns, and ignoring arm tackles along the way. He had scoring runs of 8 and 6 yards apiece, as well as several runs over 15 yards in which defenders fell at his feet.

Coach Kyle Whittingham said between Henry-Cole and Zack Moss, who was fully healthy during a public practice for the first time in weeks, the Utes were pleased with what they saw. Both backs reached the end zone, and both caught passes for big yardage.

"The game's slowing down for him, he's figuring and he gets it. Those freshmen come in sometimes with a deer-in-the-headlights look and not real sure of what's going on. Plus he was behind some good players last year."

With injuries this spring, Henry-Cole has often found himself at the front of the pack by default. He said he learned a lot by watching Joe Williams' example in practice, and he's set personal records in the weight room during winter conditioning.

As for his competition with Moss, Henry-Cole said he doesn't take it personally — he was actually complimentary of the player who is battling him at the top of the depth chart.

"We're family, basically, so it's all good," he said. "He did really well today. I'm proud of him. He looks really good running to the outside."


Center Lo Falemaka missed Tuesday's practice, and helped contribute to Utah's scrambling at center, where exchanges were a big problem. Whittingham said Falemaka's health won't be a long-term concern. … Whittingham said he estimated "10 to 12" players will sit in the Red-White game. Safety Chase Hansen sat during Tuesday's scrimmage, and guard Salesi Uhatafe only played one series. … Chris Hart, Nick Heninger and Caleb Repp were among the defensive linemen who recorded sacks in the scrimmage.

kgoon@sltrib.com Twitter: @kylegoon






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