I'm tempted to just say 'F' and move on because I don't think anyone could really say this season deserves all that good of a grade. Certainly they didn't pass anything with their performance this season and maybe, if you want to be nice, you could give them a D+ with hope for improvement ... but really, it's hard for me to buy anything higher than a D because, frankly, this season was an absolute failure across the board. I think back at everything from the games we won to how we won 'em and I don't see many redeeming qualities.
This season stunk. It was bad. It was a throwaway season if I've ever seen one and even the rise of Travis Wilson as starter at quarterback doesn't necessarily inspire. I think that's the most unfortunate in all of this because, when Kyle Whittingham decided to go with Wilson instead of Jon Hays prior to the UCLA game, there was hope that he would prove to be The Next Great Thing. Sadly, he didn't. I'm not saying Wilson failed (I don't think he did) and I have hope he can play into that role - but he struggled through huge stretches of the games he started. In the end, we can only hope his baptism by fire, so to speak, will prove to be the right choice. But there was no definitive moment this season where it just clicked and it became apparent he was the quarterback of the future.
I think, when we moved away from Hays, that was what most of us wanted to see from Wilson. And while I think he showed promise, and for that, I am optimistic, the promise was always limited. It's why, back even before Wilson got the start, I opined that Utah must stick with Hays - at least temporarily.
In retrospect, I don't feel wrong saying that. I still question whether Wilson was thrown into his role prematurely and what might have happened had, as I said in the article, we gave Hays a chance on the road. Maybe the Utes, who came dangerously close with Wilson, go down to Pasadena and actually beat the Bruins ... and maybe they beat the Beavers and maybe the season ends differently. Maybe it doesn't. But I always felt, even in passing discussion here on this blog, that the coaching staff should see things through until at least the Cal game and if Hays wasn't getting it done, then maybe a change should be in order. But because we went with Wilson early, it was kind of like the coaches were conceding the season.
Maybe they felt Wilson was the best option for this offense, and I'll readily admit there is no clear cut case that he isn't, but I feel, in that regard, we kind of shortchanged the quarterback with the play calling the past few weeks. If they were going all in on the guy, which is exactly what they did, they should have, you know, gone all in and adapted a more aggressive offense ... or the offense they planned to absolutely run with him at quarterback these next few seasons. Instead, we got a pretty conservative, often vanilla (outside those darn trick plays) offense that downplayed Wilson's strengths and focused merely on doing as little as possible. Maybe that's exactly what Whittingham wants, but it defies logic to invest so much in a quarterback if you're not going to let the quarterback, you know, quarterback.
So, while I can justify the move bringing Wilson along like they did, I really am having a tough time justifying just how they did it.
Then there is Brian Johnson, who I still don't have a good read for because I just don't know exactly what he's trying to do. It seems he was held back most this season and that's something you never want to see from a coordinator - especially one who needs to be let loose to gain experience. You know, when we went with Wilson and potentially conceded a losing season, the coaches should've told Johnson to go for broke and maybe that's what he did and this is the result. I hope not because I feel there is something missing there, but whatever. Now I'm just rambling...
Regardless, there was so much wrong with this year's team that I don't know if I can touch it all in one post. I mean, I haven't even discussed the defense, which has to be one of the worst, if not the worst, of the Whittingham era. We like to rag on the offense, and for good reason, but this year's defense was too much a liability and I don't ever remember thinking that about a Whittingham defense. Is it Kalani Sitake? The scheme? Talent - maybe it's Whitt?
Whatever the reason, it's something the team will have to work on and it's not going to be easy, considering they lose their best defensive player - Star Lotulelei.
Finally, and I know there's much, much more we can talk about (from the linebackers, defensive line to the wide receivers), I want to talk about hype.
Utah was hyped immensely by this coaching staff prior to the start of the season. Whittingham even, back before one down was played, called this his best team ever. We all generally bought it. We believed the hype. We felt this team could contend for the Pac-12 South and potentially win ten games. That's on us as fans and I'm guessing many of us won't be fooled again.
Whittingham oversold his program and that's fine because coaches generally do this ... to an extent. But when you're talking greatness, you kind of better deliver and Utah came nowhere near delivering. This isn't a situation where we thought double-digit wins and only got 6-6 - right now, any Utah fan would take this. This is a situation where the Utes went from Pac-12 contenders to pretenders pretty much the second week of the season. Utah needed a comeback against Colorado so they wouldn't finish dead last in the division.
There is no way to spin THAT type of result.
Because of all this, and more, I have to say this season deserves an F. Maybe it's not entirely deserving, especially for the players who invested everything for this team, but the overall product was just flat out bad. Not mediocre, not slightly disappointing ... undeniably bad. Awful. Terrible. Horrible. No good.
This season was the Hindenburg and you know, for it, we can only sit back and say, "oh, the humanity..."
Let's hope things are better in 2013.