This summer feels a bit different than last year. Maybe not better, but there is more excitement due to Utah's prospects and I think this directly ties to the fact we know so little about the Utes' current state.
Isn't that how it always is, though? The unknown seems to generate more hope and more excitement than what has been established. A year ago, we were confident entering the season and that was a good feeling. But we also had doubts, doubts about whether the play on the field could live up to the hype. That was a bad feeling. Doubt is never good for a football team.
I felt this way mostly because Kyle Whittingham had yet to put together a season comparable to what the hype machine was suggesting in 2008. It wasn't the fault of Whittingham entirely, because it's hard to get to that point, but I'll admit there were parts of me who wondered if Whittingham's ceiling at Utah was maybe no more than nine or ten wins and a potential shared conference title - or basically what we were getting under Ron McBride.
This summer, though, we know that isn't the case. We know Whittingham is capable of going undefeated. We know Whittingham is capable of winning 13-games. We know Whittingham is capable of making it to the BCS and finishing in the top-two. We know this because it's happened and once it's happened, there is no reason to believe it won't happen again. That's a far different attitude than hoping it happens with doubt that it might never occur.
I don't have any doubt in the program today. Regardless of what happens this season, I feel confident Utah football will stay elite as long as Whittingham coaches here. That means there can be some growing pains and struggles and I'll still be as invested as I am today. Nothing short of a winless season could shake my belief in this program.
That's automatically different from the feeling I had last year. I'm not worried about any of that and instead, can focus on the good kind of unknowns.
Like what type of quarterback Terrance Cain or Jordan Wynn will be. We talk about their growing pains costing Utah a game or two and there is that possibility, but we also haven't seen them play on the field and it's just as possible they step it up and put together an amazing season. What justification do I have for that line of thought? None. But it's no more speculative than suggesting Utah will take a gigantic step back due to Cain or Wynn having zero experience starting at the FBS level.
And I get that is a legitimate concern and it's not something I have ignored. But I also know neither has a history at Utah that tells me they can't get it done. It's not like a situation where a bad offense is coming back more experienced and so you hope they've matured enough to win two or three more games. This isn't like Utah State - where their fans are probably grounded in the realization last year's team won only three games.
That unknown, wondering whether maybe Cain can have a great first season, coupled with the satisfaction of knowing we're in good hands with this coaching staff, certainly is more enjoyable than the moments leading up to Utah's opener against Michigan last year.
Because back then, so much was riding on the Utes' season. Had they not been able to win the conference title, we're probably wondering at this stage if they ever will under Whittingham.
Now we're wondering if Cain or Wynn and a young offense can lead us to another title.
A far better state of mind to be in, don't you think?