The 2013 season is almost here.
So close, in fact, we're now entering fall camp. Today, for the first time since spring ball ended, the Utes will take the field for practice. In a bit over three weeks, the season will start and we'll get the first indication as to whether 2013's team will be better than 2012's.
This season is a bit different than what we're accustom to at Utah. Generally, around this time, we're an optimistic lot, discussing the potential of winning the conference and making a BCS bowl game. There hasn't been a fall camp since I started Block U where our expectations were less than our doubts. That isn't the case this season. We have far bigger doubts and questions involving this team's ability and because of that, no one quite knows what to expect heading into the season. Sure, some will confidently rattle off win totals and platitudes about how Utah does its best work as an underdog - but the reality is that none of us, whether it's those who expect good things or not, can say for certain where this season will go.
We're all in the dark. It's an odd feeling, and like I said, one that I haven't really experienced here at Utah since starting this blog. In fact, I don't think I've been this uncertain about Utah football since the 2003 season. That was a decade ago, and pretty much a lifetime ago for the program. It left us all pleasantly surprised and really began the greatest run in program history. Come November, will we be pleasantly surprised or are our worst fears going to be realized?
I don't expect to even get an idea of that answer these next three weeks. But I do believe fall camp can give you an idea of where things are going. In hindsight, looking back at last year's fall camp, you could see a million red flags - from injuries, to the depleted offensive line ... right on down to Wynn's arm.
We tried to ignore those claims, or excuse 'em away for varying reasons. Wynn would be fine, we said, and that the resting of his arm was perfectly reasonable. None of it was, of course. If we had bothered to look, we would have realized the concerns that dominated much of the 2012 season were there all along.
So, even though we won't get an entire picture these next few weeks as the team gears up for the season, fall camp should at least offer an idea of how the team is developing. If Travis Wilson is struggling, much like he did in the spring, it could prove a problem once the season rolls around. If Utah's offensive line has setbacks due to injury, we should take note. If the defense looks gassed and weak, it could prove they're too overwhelmed for this season.
We need to take note of what happens and how camp develops. We didn't last year and then were surprised when the offensive line struggled and Wynn went down not even a game and a half into the season. It was all there for everyone to see during fall camp and we didn't see it. That's not to say the Utes won't struggle at times readying for the season, and I expect they probably will, but if, two weeks from now, we're still wondering whether Wilson is going to get going, there could be some problems awaiting Utah once the season starts.
Last year, as camp wrapped up, I wrote a fairly negative look at the team as they geared up for the season. I felt nervous about their prospects coming out of fall camp and, unfortunately, my apprehension toward the team was proven accurate.
The signs were there. Hopefully, this year, the news out of camp is a bit more positive and in return, our confidence rises heading into the Utah State game. I know many of us have differing expectations for this year's team, with some much more optimistic than others, but at the end of the day, I guarantee we're all looking for the same truths - that this year's team will be better than last's. I hope to see that this fall camp and then, of course, this season.
I'll be watching Travis Wilson and how he establishes himself and whether or not he can put some distance between himself and Adam Schulz. I'll definitely be watching the progress of the offensive line, as well as the defense, and hopefully, by the end of August, the news filtering out from the practice reports is much less muddled, and far more optimistic, than what we heard last year.
So, yes, let the fun begin.
Are you ready?