Camp ends, attention on opener

By Chris Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

To attempt to sum up the way the U football team ended fall camp, compared to the way it started, one could simply use the cliche, “night and day.”

The defense came right out of the gates ablaze, using their speed and versatility to take advantage of an offense that hadn’t shared many snaps together.

During the team’s first scrimmage on August 12, head coach Kyle Whittingham had praise for the defense and lingering suspicion for his should-be mature offense.

“Our offensive execution needs to improve,” Whittingham said. “The defense flew around well.”

The following scrimmage on August 16 was the same old song and dance-again the defense was dominant, while the offense saw some key components play limited roles.

But after a week of cohesiveness and shared snaps, the U offensive unit flashed glimpses of a potential overwhelming crew leading up to the last scrimmage on August 20..

The summer camp finale showcased the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses as they moved the ball tremendously against the defense.

“We got a lot accomplished,” Whittingham said. “We got a lot of work done on the offensive and defensive side of the football.”

Starting quarterback Brian Johnson was able to grow more accustomed to his receiving corps, which features a couple new faces, most notably junior college transfer David Reed.

“(Johnson) has great repertoire with the receivers,” Whittingham said. “You look at a guy like Reed, who caught a junior college record 111 balls last year. That’s quite an addition.”

Reed, along with speedster Jereme Brooks and the returning versatile Brent Casteel will be among Johnson’s favorite targets and are all candidates to head up the kickoff return duties.

The apparent starters did their jobs during fall camp, but the Utes were able to find a few diamonds in the rough during the camp.

Whittingham’s most heralded finds were junior’s tight end Chris Joppru and defensive back Justin Jones.

“Chris Joppru was the most improved football player in our camp,” Whittingham said. “Also, there was (Jones) on the defensive side of the ball.”

Joppru is a monstrous target for Johnson, standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 258 pounds. His older brother Bennie was an All-American tight end at Michigan and was a second-round draft pick by the Houston Texans in the 2003 NFL Draft.

Junior kicker/punter Ben Vroman was another pleasant in-camp surprise. He had been filling in for preseason All-American Louie Sakoda, who sat out due to an infected calf, which was believed to be a spider bite.

With an already extremely-crowded backfield, one of the Utes’ most heralded signings, Alta high school product Sausan Shakerin also wowed the coaches with several impressive runs, including a 35-yard scamper.

“We are still deliberating whether or not to redshirt Shak’,” Whittingham said. “We feel a player is usually always better in his second season with the program, but that’s not always the case.”

With the conclusion of the last scrimmage, the attention of the team has shifted to the extolling season-opener against perennial Big Ten powerhouse Michigan. Whittingham noted that although it’s always tough to prepare for an opponent, he sees similarities between the two teams.

“We have started preparation,” Whittingham said. “But on the other side of the coin, so have they.”

Opening the season in one of the most intimidating places to play in the nation, at the “Carnegie Hall of college sports stadiums” or “The Big House,” which consistently averages 111,000 fans to the 45,000 that Rice-Eccles Stadium can seat., deems for preparation, but not exactly panic according to Whittingham.

“We have really hammered that point home,” Whittingham said regarding being prepared for the Michigan crowd. “I believe our team is very mature and I expect us to be just fine.”

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Tyler Cobb

During fall camp Brian Johnson got to work with his new receivers including David Reed who had 111 receptions last year in Junior College.