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There was a plan in place. Andy Phillips knew what he had to do if the baby came early.
If he saw his father, Greg Phillips, running red-faced down the sideline, they would be leaving immediately to be with his wife, Megan Phillips, for the birth of his first son.
It turned out there was no need for the emergency option: Maximus Andrew Phillips took his time, and on Tuesday doctors induced labor to bring Andy and Megan their 7-pound, 14-ounce, 21-inch-long newborn.
"You expect the best, and that's what I did, and everything went smoothly," he said, back in practice the day after becoming a father. "It was overwhelming. I don't know if it's fully hit me yet."
While Phillips, 25, lifted and practiced with the team on Wednesday, it was a mere break in visiting hours at the South Valley hospital where his wife and son are. All parties involved are happy and healthy, he said.
Phillips said he and his wife landed on "Maximus" after tossing around three or four names, and deciding he "looks like a Max."
He brought his jersey on Wednesday morning and laid his No. 39 over his son's tiny form. Snapping a picture out to the Twitterverse, it quickly went viral and landed on ESPN and Bleacher Report, among other sites.
For his part, he's happy so many can share in his joy. Teammates, coaches, and Utah support staff have spent the last two days congratulating him on his new arrival.
"Even the fans have been incredible," Phillips said. "I credit them with a lot of my success because it's nice having that support system around. You don't have to worry too much about things."
No need for grades • The Utes released notes on Monday that included a chart that drew much interest: grades for each offensive lineman's performance against Idaho State. The release surprised even Kyle Whittingham, who remarked, "I didn't know we do that."
Left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi graded out the highest (85 percent) while center Hiva Lutui (68 percent) and Junior Salt (67 percent) were the lower-rated starters from last Thursday's game.
It'll be a one-week feature, Utah athletics has since confirmed. Offensive line coach Jim Harding said the grades are revealing but ultimately unnecessary. His players already know they have to do better.
"I know there was a big deal about the grades and such," he said. "The O-line knows where mistakes are being made, and to be honest, this group of kids knows how they play even before [they get graded] and a lot of them are a lot harder on themselves than I am."
High on the priority list are fundamentals, which Harding said the Utes have dedicated extra time to work on this week. Getting lower pad level will be key against Fresno State.
"Bottom line: These kids, they know what they need to get fixed," he said. "That's the nice thing about working with this group. They're smart, they're accountable, and hopefully we get it done this Saturday."
Staff silence • Utah announced Wednesday that media will no longer be able to speak to assistant coaches during the season. Not after practice, not after games, and maybe not ever.
Whittingham's going to consider that on a case-by-case basis.
Asked how much he'd miss speaking with The Tribune, offensive coordinator Dave Christensen said, tongue-in cheek, "It breaks my heart. It's my favorite thing. I look forward to it after every practice."
Whittingham said after practice that the new policy is the result of trying to maximize assistants' time. Interviews were "becoming a pretty overwhelming thing. They've got a lot to do. I can handle answering any questions that need to be answered."
The new policy is not the result of the assistants poorly representing the program, he said, and the decision was made by "absolute consensus."
Bad habits • Much has been made in the past few weeks of sophomore Dominique Hatfield's transition to corner, and he made another pass breakup during the media observation period Wednesday.
Shah had an interesting take when asked if Hatfield's background as a receiver is a benefit to him, though.
"You'd think so, but no, not at all," he said. "I think that at this level, sometimes it's a disadvantage, because you think you can jump a certain route, as opposed to allowing your technique to take you to certain locations. Trusting a back pedal, trusting a stem and a weave rather than guessing on a route structure combination. Sometimes, in the guys who have come over to this side of the ball from offense, you see a lot of guessing."
Cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah said that the defense was simplified for Hatfield against Idaho State, and they got a good opportunity to see what he could do when the bullets fly. But he's still got to work on body position, eye location, hand placement, foot placement, knowing what to do at the beginning, middle, end and on top of a route … the list goes on and on.
"We can't keep it simple," he said. "We play too many people that are too good."
Wrinkles, in time • Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said he saw a "watered-down" version of Christensen's offense in game one, compared to what Christensen ran as head coach the past two seasons at Wyoming.
Christensen acknowledged Wednesday that this was the case.
"We'll unwrinkle some things as we go along," he said. "We had a portion of it in in the first game. We'll add more this game, we'll add more the next game. Eventually you'll have the majority of it in, then you'll add some more wrinkles in."
The majority of the carries will go to Bubba Poole and Devontae Booker, as they did last Thursday.
Roderick lauds QB play • In his return to game action, Travis Wilson drew praise from coaches on his efficiency and competitiveness. That includes praise from the man who works most closely with him, quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick.
Roderick said he expected to see Wilson and his other passers dominate Idaho State, and to a large part they did. He noted the high completion percentage, the good decisions in the run game, and - perhaps a more hidden aspect of the performance - protecting themselves.
"Our quarterbacks are responsible for changing our protections and getting us into the right situations," Roderick said. "Travis had an opportunity to really stuff some of their blitzes and he did a good job with that."
Even an unsightly first possession with Kendal Thompson at the helm didn't draw Roderick's ire: The first high snap followed by a blown protection didn't exactly set him on the right foot. What impressed Roderick, however, was how Thompson hung through it.
"I thought he did a really good job weathering the storm," he said. "It was a rough start to make his Utah debut. He wasn't rattled at all. We punted, he came back out and drove us down the field. He did a nice job."
Whittingham has said that Thompson will play this week, but Roderick isn't revealing just how he'll be used against Fresno State. Christensen said that fans are likely to again see Kendal Thompson and that "as long as he continues to go out and perform, I would imagine he'll have his opportunities."
No doubting Thomas • Justin Thomas returning to the fold against Fresno State is "huge," said Shah.
"He's a phenomenal football player," Shah said, emphasis on "football." "It's what folks don't recruit anymore: Football players. So many college coaches recruit measurables. If he's not six-this, and jumps that, and runs like this - there's no correlation that he'll be a good football player. Justin Thomas breaks the mold.
Being more specific, Shah praised the sophomore's tenacity, high football IQ and ability to communicate when things are stressful.
Tempo, tempo • USC set a Pac-12 record with 105 plays against Fresno State last week. This much is certain about the Utes: They don't feel the need to challenge that record.
Harding said although keeping a quick pace will be important, so will executing plays efficiently.
"I don't think we're going to say, 'Hey, we need to run 106' or whatever it is," he said. "We just need to push the tempo and be smart. The thing USC did was they were efficient running the plays."
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Fresno Stateat Utah
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