Poston shines in Utes’ opening scrimmage

By and

One scrimmage down, two to go.

The U football team held its first scrimmage of the year Saturday morning at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and as expected for a team just two weeks into spring ball, results were mixed.

“Very average overall on both sides?two weeks in, yeah, (I’m pleased),” U head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “If we don’t improve dramatically next Saturday, then we’ll have issues. But for the first live scrimmage, I thought it was acceptable.”

While the two-hour scrimmage went pretty much as expected, there was one standout among the glut of players competing for playing time-senior tailback Daryl Poston.

The USC transfer who was used only sparingly last season, his first at the U, rushed 14 times for 79 yards Saturday, registering four touchdowns as he looks to make a strong push for the starting spot, vacated by Quinton Ganther.

He also added two catches for 52 yards.

“I thought Daryl Poston was a bright spot, he obviously has great speed, great quickness. He had ball-security issues last year, but he appears to have those corrected,” Whittingham said. “If he can hang on to the ball and do what he did (Saturday) this fall, then we might have ourselves another 1,000-yard back.”

Should Poston continue to improve and show he can handle full-time duty, it would be a coup for a U offense that already faces enough uncertainty at its other skill positions, with the ACL injury suffered by quarterback Brian Johnson and the graduations of Ganther and wideouts John Madsen and Travis LaTendresse.

Poston is in competition for the job with Mike Liti and Darrell Mack, but after Saturday’s scrimmage, he may have an early leg up.

“When he’s healthy, he’s a great running back,” senior quarterback Brett Ratliff said. “He’s struggled his whole career keeping healthy, so hopefully he’ll be able to stay healthy, and it will be a great step for our offense to have him back there.”

Ratliff and fellow signal-caller Tommy Grady both had their struggles Saturday, as neither could find a consistent rhythm in the passing game-though that was due, in part, to several dropped passes.

Ratliff completed 6-of-16 pass attempts for 102 yards, while Grady was 7-of-20 for 115 yards. Neither threw a touchdown pass, as all six scores came on the ground.

“It felt good. We came out, and the defense stepped it up,” Ratliff said. “The first couple plays, the offense was able to drive the ball down, but it was just back-and-forth all day. It was pretty even.”

This year, the Utes expect several receivers to step up in place of the team’s departed senior class, and 6-foot-3-inch freshman Sean Smith made a case for himself Saturday, catching four passes for 62 yards, leading the Utes in what was a hit-or-miss effort from the receiving corps.

“So far, we’ve had good production out of the receiving group. I thought they missed some plays today,” Whittingham said. “There were some opportunities there to be made that they did not make today. But that’s why you practice.”

The team returns to Rice-Eccles Stadium next Saturday for its second scrimmage.

“I definitely think we could have done better,” wide receiver Marquis Wilson said. “It was just real exciting playing with everybody. This was our first real scrimmage, and I can’t wait for next Saturday.”