Saturday's annual Red & White game quickly turned into a rout, which was expected seeing the starters went up against key reserves. The Red team defeated White 59-7, behind the impressive play of Brian Johnson, Tommy Grady and Brent Casteel.
Johnson ended the scrimmage connecting on 7 of 8 passes for 145 yards, while also throwing for a touchdown. Tommy Grady, much like Johnson, was nearly perfect as he was 11 of 12 for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns. The leading receiver on the day was Brent Casteel, who scored on a 68-yard touchdown run and then a 75-yard touchdown on a pass from Johnson. He finished with 91 yards receiving and 81 yards on the ground, while finding the end zone 3 times.
Leading the White team was junior college transfer Chad Manis, who was 4 of 6 on the day for 53 yards and a 12-yard touchdown pass. That was the only score for White, who fell behind early and were dominated most of the afternoon.
The Reds Darrell Mack was the scrimmage's leading rusher, running for 108 yards on 9 carries. He also scored 2 touchdowns, including a 51-yard touchdown tear. Utah's starting running back Darryl Poston was injured earlier in the spring drills and missed the Red & White game. Utah's other backup, Ray Stowers, only finished with 16 yards on 4 carries.
On the defensive end, White had a difficult time overpowering an obviously more experienced and stronger defense. Cornerback Joe Dale had an interception, sack and a fumble recovery for the Red team, clearly the defensive standout on the afternoon.
The game offered fans a chance to view whether the team had made progress from the start of camp, to the end and it appears they have. However it's difficult to tell when the starters are going up against a truly outmatched opponent. The fact Utah put 59 points up on the 2nd and 3rd string defenses is not surprising, what would have been surprising is if they struggled. That didn't happen and both Grady and Johnson played really well. Whether that carries over into fall camp and then subsequently the season is now the biggest question. If it does, and Utah's receivers continue their play, the Utes should have a pretty potent offense heading into the season.
BREAKING DOWN THE SPRING GAME:
- QB: I'm not worried here, because I think Johnson has proven he can get it done at quarterback. I expect him to be more poised in the pocket and to cut down on the mistakes this season and the fact he had a solid spring should help in that regard. Tommy Grady had a better than expected spring, showing that maybe he could be a serviceable backup, something that he was not last year. This is probably, with depth included, Utah's strongest offensive position.
- RB: I still don't know what to think about Utah at this position. Poston is again injured and I expected more from Stowers. However Mack impressed me, but the biggest unknown is whether Matt Asiata can step in and wrestle this position away from Poston. If he can, and lives up to the hype he had coming out of Snow College, then Utah should be strong at this position.
- WR: This core will probably be one the most talented in Utah history, except there isn't much depth here and that could be a concern. Utah is about four deep, with a lot of inexperience backing that talent up. That shouldn't be an issue unless injuries play a major role this season and if they do, the Utes could struggle. I'm hoping that Marquis Wilson can get it together and rejoin the team this fall, because he had shown signs of great play last season.
- OL: The offensive line always seems to be a question heading into the season. It was last year and it appears the line will be a big question this year as well. With that said, I'm feeling better about the line than in years past and I think they will be vastly improved over last year's.
- DL: Quick is a way to describe Utah's defensive line. They're not as big as in year's past, but I think they'll be a force in the coming season. This might be Utah's strongest point on defense, especially depth.
- LB: I don't know what to think about the Utah's linebackers. If the defensive line can get pressure up the middle and force the rival quarterbacks into throwing sloppy passes, the linebackers won't be stretched long, which should help. However if the line struggles, then Utah could be in trouble like they were last year.
- Secondary: Probably one of the weakest spots on the defense and I really don't know what to make of it this year. Last season Utah was burned a lot through the air and I'm not expecting much better, though there should be improvement. Without Weddle back there, other players need to step up and hopefully they do.
- Overall: It's tough to get a feel for how good Utah is, since they went up against far weaker matchups. I'm optimistic, but realize that there are some key problems at key positions that need to be addressed before the start of the season. I'm not sold on the running game, have doubts about the defense and if you add in the schedule Utah faces this year, it could be a brutal season. This team is made for next season, but I don't think that automatically means we concede this season. They have the workings to be really good, but until proven otherwise, my doubts linger.