Weather does not stop Utes

S-Football Colby Patterson
Travis Still is blocked by teammate Jerrel Oliver during last Saturday’s practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Travis Still is blocked by teammate Jerrel Oliver during last Saturday’s practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Mother Nature decided to participate in the April Fool’s Day tomfoolery, providing the Utes with a little rain and light snow when they took the field for Tuesday’s practice.

Despite the poor weather, practice was not moved to the indoor practice facilities as coaches and players picked up their gear and headed to Rice Eccles Stadium to practice in the cold weather. It provided an extra challenge for the players to hone in on their assignments, particularly for those catching the football. Head coach Kyle Whittingham said playing in poor conditions is something players just have to get used to.

“At some point during the season, our odds are that we are going to be playing in weather like this,” he said. “Maybe even more than once. But I think we handled it pretty well today, though it was probably our least productive practice this spring.”

A good chunk of practice time was spent working on fumble situations, both offensively and defensively. Whittingham mentioned how this was the time to develop toughness, during poor weather.
“It was not a bad practice, but we just were not as crisp and we were not as sharp like we could have been,” Whittingham said. “We let the elements get to us, which you cannot do, because at some point we are going to be in this exact situation when we are battling.”

Turnovers key to offensive woes

In the 2013 season, Utah committed 25 turnovers, a number that is seemingly always too high for coaches. While there was only one interception during Tuesday’s practice, the Utes fumbled the ball multiple times. At moments during the season, the offense showed promise, but the Utes could not find a way to be more consistent, and the solution is clear.

“We got to be effective and eliminate turnovers,” said wide receiver Dres Anderson. “Basically, turnovers killed us all of last year. If we eliminate turnovers, we will be great.”

Anderson has felt new drills will help him and his teammates’ effectiveness. Though the defense has been consistent in causing the turnovers, Anderson said it is only a matter of time during the spring until the Utes will get better. As a 1,000-yard receiver from last season, Anderson is willing to do whatever it takes in order to make his last season in Salt Lake City memorable.

“I got to put in my work,” Anderson said. “I got one more year here, so I got to make sure it is a good one.”

Utes shift to new positions

Because of the lack of depth in certain areas, changes have been made for some players, including switching to the opposite side of the ball. The latest has been former tight end, Greg Reese, who has officially been moved to defensive end.

Reese is familiar with the defensive end position as he split his time there in high school. Reese said he met with Whittingham on Monday to ask about a chance to play in another spot, and his coach agreed. Standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing around 260 pounds, Reese feels happy about his new opportunity to become an asset.

“I feel good about the switch, “ Reese said. “The main thing, I just want to be in a position to help my team. I consider myself a team player, and if I can help my team on defense, then that is the way to go.”

b.barlow@chronicle.utah.edu