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Media day recap

You know football season is taking its marry time getting here when you're excited to read preseason coaches comments during media day. But that's exactly what I am today, as Whittingham gave Ute fans a taste of what to expect from this years Utes team.

While he didn't say much, there were some informative comments that should shed some light on how good this team looks prior to the Oregon State game.

Emphasis on comments below mine

Well, we're five days into practice and I think we've seen some good things and I'm pleased with the team so far. Today we put on the pads and it was the first live action of the season. It also ended the NCAA-mandated acclimatization period and things are progressing as expected.

Well this sounds promising. Of course we heard the same thing in 2005 and '06 and we all know how that worked out for the Utes. Hopefully this is true, but have you ever heard a coach say the team sucks and that they're not pleased with how things are and where they're going? I didn't think so.

The main areas of competition have been at the tailback and at the secondary. Those two positions are a battle for "who's going to be the guy" or "guys," in the case of the secondary.

Not a surprise here, as this was expected. Utah will have a pretty shaky secondary and the running game is probably an equally large question mark. Hopefully Asiata is the man.

Matt Asiata has looked good at tailback. He injured his foot today and when he returns to practice, we fully expect him to be back in the mix. Ray Stowers, Darrell Mack and Darryl Poston have also done some good things.

I reported Asiata's injury yesterday and it's good to know he's expected to return long before the season opener. It seems Stowers, Mack and Poston are looking decent, but after last year I'm not going to bye the hype until I see it actually transpire on the field.

At wide receiver, we have the "Six Pack." That's what we call Freddie Brown, Brent Casteel, Bradon Godfrey, Brian Hernandez, Derrek Richards and Marquis Wilson, the six veteran wide receivers on the team. All of the returners are doing well and Jereme Brooks, a freshman, has stepped in and shown some solid play.

The Six Pack, I like that. There is no question this is Utah's best position on the entire team. They have veteran leadership here and that should play dividends for the Utes. I'm excited to see what they can do with a more consistent quarterback like Brian Johnson running the show.

We return our entire offensive line and they have looked good in the early going. Brian Johnson is our guy at quarterback and Tommy Grady will be our backup.


Our defensive front is as deep as it has ever been while our linebackers are anchored by our seniors.

The secondary, however, is painfully young. It has the makings of a very good group of players but they are very raw and need to be sorted out. There's a lot of development that we need to do in the secondary.

Hopefully he's right about the defensive front, because I miss the old days when Utah's defense blitzed and pressured the hell out of the opposing team's quarterback. As for the linebackers, that's a wait and see for me. The secondary though does concern me, since it wasn't all that great last year. We'll see how that goes though, as Sean Smith looks promising.

Some members of the media asked Whittingham questions, here's a recap of what he said.

Q: What have you been pleased with in camp thus far?

A: I would have to say the continuity of our offense. But, that has not been a surprise. Brian Johnson and our offense have shown some good execution. They have hit the ground running and that's what we expected.

Yup, the offense should be far more improved over last year's, hopefully though it's enough to compensate for a questionable defense.

Q: How did Matt Asiata hurt himself in practice this morning?

A: He was participating in a blocking drill and he came away from it with a sore foot. He's been talking to our trainer (Bill Bean) and we're taking him to the doctor as a precautionary measure, so we're hoping it's nothing serious.

X-rays were negative, he'll be fine.

Q: How do you feel about the schedule you're going to play this year?

A: We are going to be tested. We open at Oregon State and then we come home and open league play against Air Force. We also have to play UCLA and at Louisville. It's going to tough, but it's going to exciting. Believe me, there isn't anyone whining about it around here. We're going to play some big-time Division I programs and we embrace that. We don't duck away from any challenges.

I'm glad the team isn't whining about the schedule, or making excuses about possible future struggles. Not ducking away from challenges is something you always want, but you've got to wonder if they bit off more than they could chew with their schedule. With that being said, I don't expect Utah to lay down like they did last season. At least I hope not anyway and if they do, I'll be very disappointed.

Q: Brian Johnson has been out for a year now. How has he looked since he returned?

A: Brian Johnson looks good. His knee is a dead issue. It's not injured anymore and there's no pain or swelling. He hit the weight room pretty hard last year and he has added 20 pounds. To go along with that, he's a smart quarterback. He's a lot like Alex Smith in that regard.

However, this isn't just the Brian Johnson show. We got to have wide receivers for him to throw to, an offensive line to protect him and a tailback to take the pressure off of him in the backfield. He's just a catalyst, but the success of the team depends on weather his supporting cast steps it up.

Whittingham's final comment really shows me he might be growing as a coach. He understands the team concept and that just because Johnson had great numbers in 2005 does not mean he will be able to carry the entire team on his shoulders.

Hopefully Johnson is successful at transitioning from injury to starter and that he improves on his 2005 stats. Utah has an offense that has the potential to be really good, however it's going to take those things Whittingham mentioned above for that to happen.