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August 12, 2009

Running backs fight for time

The first day of two-a-day practices is truly when fall camp begins. Position battles are heating up across the board and the staff is throwing more of the playbook into practices. The morning session included quite of bit of installation work on offense so there is not much to report on. While the notable battles have been at quarterback and for the "fifth starter" on the offensive line, others are starting to come into the forefront as the Utes get ready to close out the first week of camp.

One battle to watch is at running back. Matt Asiata is the unquestioned starter but there is an intense competition between Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin for that second spot on the depth chart. Shak is similar to Asiata while Wide is a completely different back; more speed and much more elusive in the open field than the other two. Another battle is at tight end, where Kendrick Moeai and Brad Clifford are competing to back up Chris Joppru. Clifford entered camp ahead of Moeai based on a stronger spring, but Moeai has played well and moved into a virtual tie with Clifford early in camp. Both players are solid receivers. Moeai is much faster and a better pure receiving option at the position, something Utah has not had since Ben Moa in 2003.

Other notes from the morning session:

Sam Brenner is getting reps at left tackle with Zane Beadles being held out with a minor muscle pull. Brenner has come a long way from spring, especially with his technique. Brenner has always had good feet but he is getting much better with his hands and not allowing himself to get "set up" by the pass rusher. Still a little inconsistent but the improvement is noticeable.

• The offensive line is very much a work-in-progress. The four starters are very good, but the backups are having a hard time with consistency and penalties. Derek Tuimauga has had a solid camp playing mostly at left guard. The depth on the line is very young and it shows.

Derrick Shelby was virtually impossible to block in OL/DL drills. Shelby has added a variety of moves and is using them effectively to get past the tackles almost at will.

• I can't help but notice the play of Lamar Chapman. Chap has gone from a liability in the spring to jumping routes and being in on almost every play.

Wide continues to make plays in the running game. He is at his best when he gets outside but is not at all afraid to pound the ball between the tackles for 3-4 yards.

Jordan Wynn had a couple of nice running plays. He broke out of the pocket to his left one time for a nice gain. It is a positive sign to see a young right-handed QB comfortable moving to his left.

Terrance Cain also had one very nice run and continued his solid play through the air. The question is if he can make the big play. It is tough on any offense to have to string together 10+ play drives to score every time they have the ball.


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