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March 31, 2006Utah returned to full on smack down mode today, as they opened the first tackling session of spring camp. The Utes were aggressive, and it was the perfect day for it as the hits rang throughout Rice Eccles Stadium.
Can't Stop the Moves
As the tackling drills started up with the wide outs against defensive backs, the wide outs looked well polished and make moves that were smooth as butter. Derrek Richards juked several defensive backs out of their shoes. Thomas Huff cut back and forth then would push the defenders back as they tried to bring him down but he would keep going with his 6-foot-4 inch 208-pound frame. The offensive line started the day strongly, but seemed to fade toward the end of practice. One noticeable newcomer to the line was gigantic guard Corey Seiuli, who made several impressive blocks early on.
Smash Mouth Football
The hits were ringing throughout Rice-Eccles Stadium this afternoon as eleven-on eleven contact drills began. The offense spent a lot of time installing running packages, and coaches and fans alike got their first look at the backs running between the tackles. Junior Mike Liti, who has spent considerable time improving his physique and conditioning, looks much improved over last year. He is hitting the hole harder and faster and looks more capable of grinding it out between the tackles on a consistent basis.
On the defensive side of the ball, tackling was the key today, and some defenders didn't disappoint. Chet Blasucci put a nasty hit on Darryl Poston as he tried to turn the corner. On another series, Kelly Talavou smashed George Molifua for a loss as he ran to the sideline. Towards the end of the scrimmage, the first team defense looked solid and they were getting to the ball on every snap.
The quarterbacks started to pick up the pace with throws to each side of the field and down the middle. Brett Ratliff ended the day going four for six for 40 yards and an interception. Ratliff said after practices that he is staying focused and not worrying about the competition, but he knows it's there so he just wants to stay focused on himself and his play. Junior QB Tommy Grady is steadily improving his timing and downfield vision, as he tries to learn the system. He had another outstanding day going three for six in the two minute drill. Kevin Dunn didn't see many reps in the eleven on eleven as he went for one for two.
Stars of the Day
The defensive star goes to junior corner back Ryan Smith During eleven on eleven scrimmage situations, Smith broke up a bomb from Ratliff by getting his head turned around and putting a hand in to deflect the ball. He also read a run play to Poston and hit him in the back field for a loss.
The offensive star goes to Darryl Poston. Poston came to play today, ran strong, and busted big runs of 17 and 12 yards in scrimmage situations.
Eric Weddle was in the pit today due to a slight hamstring injury. Defensive end Greg Newman also was working on his hamstring injury, but should be ready to go by Tuesday. Freshman defensive tackle Kenape Eliapo suffered a serious hamstring injury in drills on Tuesday and it's a safe bet that he won't be returning for at least two weeks. We spoke with Brian Hernandez about his ankle injury and he said that it's slowly getting better. He has been out of his hard cast for about 4 weeks, and is wearing a ankle brace to help support it. Hernandez is only at 65%, but says by the summer camp he should be ready to go full speed and will be 100% closer to fall camp.