March 17, 2010
Picking up the Pace
Utah started week two of spring practices with a bang, as the Utes picked up intensity level for a spirited session Tuesday. Utah defenders flew to the football and hit hard, especially in the trenches.
No one has really emerged in the position battles of interest though Tuesday was just the second practice in full pads. Utah's coaches started mixing up personnel to get a better look at players, combinations, and potential starters, and even with the changes Utah's defense still performed well.
Up front the Utah defense appears stout, and even with the added size recorded several sacks on Tuesday. Most were legitimate sacks as well - not just the coaches blowing the play dead before the pressure got to the quarterbacks. James Aiono had a fantastic practice and was generating a great amount of pressure from the inside and showed some fantastic pass rush moves to beat the linemen. Latu Heimuli also showed some pass rush ability as the defensive tackles as a whole had an outstanding day. The talent and depth inside is starting to show up and allow the ends and linebackers space to make plays. Tackle will definitely be a strength of the Utah defense in the 2010 season.
- Trevor Reilly had a solid practice. The redshirt freshmen looks like he could be a good situational pass rusher, though right now he is just an outside speed rusher. He needs to add some more moves as well as add more size and strength to play the run.
- Lei Talamaivao has dropped 15 pounds in order to play end and is looking to drop another 5-10 pounds by the time the season starts. Talamaivao played tackle at 285 pounds last fall and looks quick at his current 270. Talamaivao is still adjusting to playing outside but shows potential and the ability to do all that is asked of Utah's ends - including dropping back in coverage on occasion.
- Brandon Burton is having a fantastic spring at corner. Burton made several great breaks today and broke up a ton of passes. Burton had a strong year in 2009 as a first-year starter and is picking up where he left off. Burton has everything - size, speed, instinct, the ability to play the run - he just needs to improve his ball skills and start intercepting passes he is now knocking down.
- The battle to start opposite Burton is coming along. All the candidates are missing something but all are playing hard and getting better. Lamar Chapman has the cover skills, but lacks size. Chapman is stronger than his size and plays physical, but at 5-foot-8 just might be too small to be a full time starting corner. Chapman is the favorite to start opposite Burton, though Conroy Black and Kamaron Yancy are right on Chapman's heels and getting better each day.
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