What can be done to salvage this season? Can it be salvage? I haven't felt this bad about the Utes since 2000, when they started 0-2 on their way to a 4-win season. Are we doomed to a repeat of that year, or can something be done to right this sinking ship? Frankly, I'm heavily leaning toward the former. I believe, right now anyway, Utah football under the leadership of Kyle Whittingham is done. Maybe not this year, but it is an impending scenario that I don't think even the most positive of fans can ignore.
The season is only two weeks old and I'm already conceding that the Utes are on path for their first losing season in five years. Though I'm not certain of this, it's tough looking at any upcoming game as a gimmie. Not even the typical cupcake games like UNLV and USU. The Rebels nearly knocked off #5 Wisconsin Saturday night and of course the Aggies played those same Rebels tough in week one. Honestly, each game scares the hell out of me and that was something unimaginable just two weeks ago.
Of course the struggles on offense aren't helped by the fact Utah has been bitten by the injury bug. Who knows when Brian Johnson will be back, wide receiver Brent Casteel, offensive lineman Jason Boone and running back Matt Asiata are all gone for the season and the Utes have only played two games. Do these injuries get Whittingham and the coaching staff off the hook? If so, does this mean there won't be any changes once the season is done? Hopefully not, because even with the injuries, there are some very unsettling issues with this team, especially on offense.
If there is one thing Ludwig has been consistent in -- and we all know his offenses have not been consistent in the least -- it is that he's not a very good coordinator. It appears the players are not taught how to block, the receivers aren't taught how to catch and the entire offense often just lethargically moves down the football field. And while players should accept some of the blame, I can't help but think the coaches are not doing their job at teaching, motivating and making these players better.
What happened against the Falcons should not have happened. Air Force, while a tough team to play, completely abused the Utes at the line of scrimmage, even though Utah was far bigger. The day the Utes lose the line of scrimmage battle to Air Force is the day the coaches are not doing their jobs. And that falls on the shoulders of Charlie Dickey and Andy Ludwig. The offensive line is not filled with a bunch of unskilled, overweight, piss-poor players. These are solid linemen that could be great under the right leadership. And while the loss of Boone hurt, the offensive line has consistently been a question ever since Whittingham took over, which is a startling development, since Utah has constantly had decent offensive lines, especially when McBride was head coach.
But the most depressing thing about this team, and the future, is the fact they look worse than the McBride-era teams. What I saw Saturday night was his offense without the running game and there is no excuse for that. When Utah was trying to punch it in at the Falcons goal line, Poston completely missed a wide open hole and instead ran away from it, which resulted in no gain. Now while I don't blame the coaches for this, I can't help but think that, as I said before, these players are not being taught the essentials of football. I don't think talent is an issue with this team, I do believe, however, that these players are not being coached well enough to take advantage of their talent. That is a troubling trend we've seen over the past three years and I don't see that changing in the future.
So outside of tossing Whittingham to the curb, what is the solution to Utah's problems and where do they go from here? Is this just an issue of injuries and nothing more, or is there a deeper problem at hand that won't change, even when Brian Johnson returns? I honestly believe that Johnson will only mask the issues we have, much like Bogut did in Giacoletti's first season. There are players out there that have the ability to force a program into success in spite of coaching. I believe Luke Staley did that for BYU during Gary Crowton's first season and I think Johnson has the ability to do it for Whittingham. But take him out of the equation and Utah's not a very good team. They weren't last year and they obviously aren't this year.
That means Johnson comes back, probably after Louisville, when the Utes are 2-4. Can he be good enough to carry the Utes to a winning season? As I said earlier, I do not believe there is not one gimmie game on this schedule, which could suggest that even with Johnson back, Utah isn't a very good team.
It's crap all around and I'm really tiring of bad losses, something that is quickly becoming a staple for Whittingham coached teams. Who knows, maybe the Utes will turn it around and finish the season with a fairly decent record. But as it looks right now, the Utes are stuck in reverse and will be until changes are made. It's just a shame things haven't worked out like we all had hoped.