It's been a few months since the Utes last saw the field. Back then they were beating Tulsa for their 6th straight bowl win, a 25-13 victory in the Armed Forces Bowl. It's also been a bit longer for Brian Johnson, who last played in November of 2005. In that game he went down with about a minute left in Utah's home loss to New Mexico. The injury altered the route Utah would take to success as Brett Ratliff, chosen as Johnson's replacement, guided the Utes to a win the following week over BYU in Provo and then led the Utes to an 8-5 season last year. And now Johnson has returned, ready to lead the Utes back to the top of the Mountain West.
Today Utah kicks off its first spring practice. Brian Johnson is the number one quarterback going in, with Kyle Whittingham telling the Salt Lake Tribune it's his job to lose. An understatement if you ask me, because Johnson was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in his sophomore season and I expect him to pick up right where he left off before his injury.
In fact Johnson looked so good in fall camp that he could have been named starter then, but he told the coaches he would rather sit the year out because he didn't want to reinjury his ACL. He did and Utah struggled under Ratliff, who took time to develop.
While Johnson had a great first year statistic wise, the Utes were far from being an explosive team. Their offense often struggled, especially in the redzone and they still managed to lose 5 games. But that was with an inexperienced offense, a new coaching staff and a bunch of games that were painfully close. I think most Ute fans are still frustrated at the fact Utah came a few plays away from winning 10 games and probably winning another conference championship. Maybe this year will be better and Utah can get some of those teams, win the close games and never get blown out -- something that happened three times last season.
Spring practice today is held from 3:00pm to 5:00pm on the practice fields. Practices are open to the media and public, so if you have time go watch.