Ute receivers adapting to spread offense

Updated: August 17, 2003, 2:16 PM ET

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's receivers are making progress in adapting to coach Urban Meyer's passing-oriented spread offense, but Meyer is sounding cautious.

"Yes, we're getting better," he said. "And no, we are nowhere near where we need to be to have a top 15 program."

Less than two weeks before their season opener against Utah State, the Utes are still getting familiar with the quick-strike scheme -- key to fulfilling Meyer's hopes for a high-voltage offense.

"It's not something you can pick up in a week and execute it perfectly," senior quarterback Lance Rice said.

But progress is evident. Receivers coach Billy Gonzales said he's seen night-and-day improvement since spring.

"What we are teaching takes time to learn. They did a great job over the summer and it's kind of carrying over," Gonzales said. "The one thing we've got to work on is just maintaining our stamina."

Such is life in a spread offense -- especially one headlined by a pair of talented running backs. Senior Brandon Warfield and Marty Johnson will likely draw lots of attention from opposing defenses.

"We've got two great ones. (Other teams) are going to bring some safeties down in the box to try and stop us," Gonzales said. "That's where our guys have got to become weapons. They can't be possession receivers."

Meyer shrugs off any notion that the offense is complex. Defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham acknowledges it isn't easy to defend, but like anything else must be done properly.

"If you execute it well," Whittingham said. "It is virtually unstoppable."

The pressure is on the receivers, said freshman receiver Steve Savoy. Utah's ground game could suffer if a passing attack can't be established. Making correct reads is crucial.

"More than likely they'll blitz and try to stop the run," Savoy continued. "Our inside receivers have just got to work their sights and do what we've been taught."

But the Utes have a lack of depth, and can ill afford injuries in their receiving corps. Through recruiting, Meyer plans to eventually build a pool of 12 scholarship receivers. This season, he figures Utah has only five such players. Likely candidates to see significant action include Savoy, Paris Warren, Travis LaTendresse, Ben Moa and Larry Miles.

The Utes may redshirt freshmen Kyle Brady -- who is also being groomed as a running back -- Thomas Huff and Joe Johnson.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index