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There's looking the part, and then there's Darrin Paulo, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound, goatteed 18-year-old who could already pass for an NFL player.
Two, in particular.
"Ever since I got here, everyone always tells me I'm C.J. Orchard," Paulo said.
"C.J." for Jeremiah Poutasi, the latest third-round pick of the Tennessee Titans. Like Poutasi, Paulo passed on an offer from Oregon to play on Utah's offensive line, and like Poutasi, he is an exceptionally imposing man.
Orchard for Nate, of course, the second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns. Paulo is told they have similar facial features although "I've seen Orchard," he said. "I don't think I look like him."
While many of the younger Utes broke off for scout team duty at Wednesday's practice, Paulo continued to work alongside the vets, rotating in and out of the No. 2 offense.
"We think he's going to be very good," said coach Kyle Whittingham. "We've mixed in playing tackle and guard to try to find out where his comfort level is, and right now, it might be at guard, the place he can help us soonest. ... Tackle, you're out there on that island, it's a little more demanding."
Paulo, whose older brother, Darryl Paulo, is a defensive end at Washington State, said he chose Utah even as there were offseason reports of coaching instability because of the family atmosphere he observed on his official visit.
"Everyone's connected," he said. "No one is clique-y. Offense and defense hangs out together. That is what sealed the deal for me."
It doesn't hurt that he sees some familiar faces, too. Devontae Booker played with Darryl at Grant Union, in Sacramento, Calif., and Paulo remembers watching Booker dominate with the same seeming ease.
Grant is also the home school of former all-conference wideout Paris Warren, who has returned to Utah this fall as a student assistant.
And freshman running back Marcel Brooks-Brown hails from nearby Rio Linda, Calif., where he was mentored by former Rio Linda back Marty Johnson teammates with Warren on the Utah team that won the Fiesta Bowl.
"That's a nice little connection we have," said offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Jim Harding, who recruits Northern California. Plus, Harding said, "Any time you go out there recruiting and you bring up the name Devontae Booker, they talk about how proud they are that he's accomplished what he has."
Not only on the field, Harding said, but off it, where Booker has gone from former nonqualifier at Washington State and Fresno State to first-team All-Pac-12 Academic.
Harding describes Paulo as a "Yes, sir" kind of guy who is showing potential on the left side of the line, albeit quietly. He's not only looking the part, he's acting it.
Said Harding: "It's a really good quality for a freshman: He's not trying to be seen, he just wants to get better."
Scouts about • They'll do their best to be "invisible" on the sideline, defensive coordinator John Pease said. Yet there's little mistaking the logos on their visors or polo shirts.
New England. Denver. Buffalo.
The NFL scouts who patrol the practice field may not say much to players or coaches, but if you have eyes, you're gonna know they are there.
"Scouts are like that good-looking blond you like, winking at you," Pease said. "And you say, 'OK, I'm gonna make a play today.' "
The Utes have welcomed a dozen scouts this week, the first time in several years they've allowed them to attend fall camp, said safeties coach Morgan Scalley. The teams represented also include the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans.
It's a factor when players enter practice, senior linebacker Jason Whittingham said, but he tries to play with the same intensity every day no matter who is watching.
"You notice them at the start and at the end," he said. "During practice, you get into your zone and you kind of block everything out. I always practice hard. We're not taking practices off when they're not there. But it does give us a little more of a positive attitude when they are there."
Offensive improvement • There were few details to be gleaned Wednesday from Tuesday's closed-off scrimmage, but running backs coach Dennis Erickson allowed that "I thought the defense won, and that was the long and the short of it."
But the offense rebounded Wednesday, scoring at will in red zone drills during the 20-minute media observation period, and Whittingham said it was as good as they've looked all camp.
Jason Whittingham admitted, "I don't think the defense had a lot of juice really. It seemed like the defense was pretty flat, and toward the end there when we were in red zone, the offense was just giving it to us. ... The end of the camp is a grind. Everyone's hurt, everyone's tired. But we just have to be able to bring it in these last few practices."
Tidbits • Kyle Whittingham said he had not heard about a contract to extend the Utah-BYU series to 2020. "I'm just focused on this year, period," he said. "Don't care about anything beyond this year." ... Freshman wideout Tyrone Smith spent Wednesday's practice as a defensive back, an experiment likely to last 2-3 days, Whittingham said. Smith was listed as a starter at Z receiver on the most recent depth chart. "It's a good time to see what Tyrone can do," Whittingham said. "He's got the same type of body frame as Sean Smith, Keith McGill, Eric Rowe." ... Utah emerged from the scrimmage with few injuries, Whittingham said, but he acknowledged that freshman wideout Britain Covey joined Raelon Singleton and Tim Patrick on the sidelines. Whittingham hopes Covey, Utah's expected starting punt returner, will return to practice within a few days.
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