Meyer not confident in backups

As the offseason winds down and the regular season looms, the same problem the U football team had last year looms again this year.

The starters are good, but the backups are not yet up to the standard that Urban Meyer wants.

“I think the ones are mentally and physically ready to go play a game,” he said.

The same cannot be said for the backups.

“We’re a good team, but a bad program,” he said. “Good programs have two deep and I don’t know if we’re going to have that this year.”

Never one to shun the truth, Meyer knows that each member of the second team lies within a strained hamstring or a pulled muscle of a starting job, and judging from his reaction after Wednesday’s scrimmage, he’s a little bit worried.

The worries stemmed Wednesday from the unexplainable fumble of running back Mike Liti, the numerous missed passes of backup quarterbacks Brian Johnson and Fano Tagovailoa, and the overall disappointing performance of the vaunted Ute defense.

Two second stringers in particular made quite an impact Wednesday, however.

Slated as the No. 2 running back, potential superstar Marty Johnson displayed awesome strength battling for extra yards in short yardage situations, but his left sweep in a first-and-10 scenario gave him a chance to show off his break-away speed as Johnson ran for a 60-yard touchdown. He stopped once he beat the final defender and the refs blew the whistle, but the imprint left in the minds of the fans was unmistakable.

Making an even bigger impact at the scrimmage was slot receiver John Madsen, whose massive frame and agile moves at the line of scrimmage left him open all day. At one point it even seemed as if the defensive unit forgot about him.

Madsen lacks break-away speed, but demonstrated an innate ability to find the crease and get open.

With the already established starters of Paris Warren and Steve Savoy worrying defenders, Madsen looks poised to capitalize on defensive double teams and slow linebackers.

“John Madsen has had a great camp,” Meyer said. “We’re going to play him and I wanted to reinforce that issue today. He’s 6 feet 5 inches with a 36-inch vertical, so he’s a talented guy.”

With a game a week away, the Utes will need all the help they can get, and Madsen and Johnson look like they are ready to contribute.

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