While the Utes aren't calling it an official scrimmage, Saturday's practice consisted of a lot of live work. What the coaches saw big catches by the receivers, solid runs by the running backs and an efficient pace by the quarterbacks made Utah's coaches satisfied the team is on the right track.
"Explosive plays by the offense, a lot of explosive plays," was the way Utah coach Kyle Whittingham described the effort.
A lack of such plays in 2012 was one of the main reasons Dennis Erickson was brought on board. His up-tempo offense has been embraced by the quarterbacks, putting the offense ahead of where it was last year, in Whittingham's estimation.
"Only six practices in, I couldn't be more pleased," he said.
With returning back Kelvin York still bothered by turf toe, both backups Lucky Radley and James Poole had solid efforts.
Their success was keyed by an offensive line that Whittingham said is the most improved area of the team.
Backup quarterbacks Adam Schulz and Brandon Cox are keeping the pressure on starter Wilson, with Schulz in particular picking up the no-huddle offense well, Erickson said.
The Utes still are having too many dropped balls and started slower than Erickson would have liked, but they recovered quickly.
"The key is how you react, and we reacted well," he said. "Maybe a year or two ago we wouldn't have reacted like that. This is a fun group. I am excited. We are a lot better than people think we are."
Waiting game: The kicking game continues to be inconsistent with freshman Jamie Sutcliffe and Andy Phillips struggling. Whittingham said he was in no hurry to settle the position.
"We might not know until seven days out," he said about the season opener.
Sidelined: Utah's injury list is a long one with several key defenders out, including defensive end Nate Orchard (back) and linebacker/defensive end Jason Whittingham (shoulder), who had surgeries last week. Defensive end Trevor Reilly and Wykie Freeman already were scheduled to miss practice while recovering from injuries.
Linebackers V.J. Fehoko and Reshawn Hooker also are out.
"Half our starting defense is in the pit," Whittingham said.
Of note: Freshman Justin Thomas, who is competing with junior college transfer Davion Orphey for a starting role at corner, has moved ahead, Whittingham said. ... The Utes are scheduled to practice Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. ... Former Ute Luther Elliss spoke to the team after practice.