All in all, I think it was a pretty good spring for the Utes. They certainly didn't answer all questions, but let's be honest - who expected every question to be answered? It's a tough proposition for a team coming off a losing season and replacing a good deal of its talent. Still, the questions they did answer could go along way toward Utah returning to postseason play.
So, with spring in the books, I feel better today than after the final scrimmage a week ago. There is still work to be done, but it's a good template for fall ball (where I think the action revs up considerably) to build on and set a positive standard heading into the 2013 season.
I'm confident with this position, which, after last year, is saying somethin'. Travis Wilson didn't have the prettiest spring, but he stepped it up the final week of camp and saved his best for last - producing, in my view, the best performance of any of the quarterbacks Saturday in the Red-White game.
But it's not just Wilson. Utah football does appear to have legitimate depth at this spot with both Adam Schulz and Brandon Cox. We couldn't really say that last season, or the season before, and it proved out when Jordan Wynn, unfortunately, was lost to season-ending injuries. Sure, Jon Hays did his best in this role, and, throughout parts of 2011, did it admirably, but let's be honest - Hays was never a legitimate starter in the Pac-12 and not one we could rely on for much consistency. Wilson is (I hope) and Schulz, though he hasn't seen much game-time action, appears to be ... as does Brandon Cox, a fairly touted quarterback out of high school (he held offers from Arizona, Iowa State and Maryland). So, the depth is there and that depth should give fans at least some ease when Wilson runs, or is hit ... or the line collapses.
Speaking of the line - they appear to be the most improved unit this spring. It could be the defensive line is just more suspect than last year's, but it's nice to have at least some hope for a spot that absolutely struggled much of last year. Kyle Whittingham even called its progress, "night and day compared to last year," and he credits Dann Finn, who, let's be honest, didn't have a good debut season with Utah last season.
Let's hope Whittingham is right because the offense will only go as far as the line allows it.
On spring alone, this is Utah's best position. That's a bit of a surprise since they have to replace John White IV. But there seems to be a lot of talent here that has stepped up in spring - from Kelvin York (who backed up White last year), Karl Williams (who had 108 yards for White in Saturday's spring game), James Poole (who had 62 rushing yards and 49 receiving yards for White) and Lucky Radley. It could be a blessing - but it also might prove to be a tough balancing act for the coaches as they try to get the best talent on the football field.
York is probably going to be the starter, but I definitely think Williams has shown his ability as the back-up. Much like last season, I wouldn't be surprised if York and Williams split some minutes like White and York did - though, hopefully it doesn't come via injury.
This was a sketchy position last season, and fairly disappointing when you consider the talent. I'm not ready to buy the hype on the receivers, but I like what I've seen from Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott. Scott had 97 yards and a touchdown catch for White Saturday and Dres had 71 yards for Red - their leading receiver was Delshawn McClellon, who showcased why they call him the Road Runner, with 102 yards and a touchdown.
So, I am more optimistic about this unit than prior to spring. Like last year, there is talent, but it's just a matter of that talent clicking. At this point, it's unclear if it will when the season rolls around - but they'll hold a piece of the puzzle to Utah's offense rebounding this upcoming season.
Utah's offensive line really controlled much of the scrimmage, and has done that most of spring ball. You can read this two ways - either the injury depleted Utah defensive line is really that bad, or the offensive line, as I mentioned earlier, has really improved. I don't want to think it's the former, and I'm not ready to buy fully the OL is the beast the coaches suggest, so, it could fall somewhere in the middle, which, all things considered, would still be a vast improvement over last year's line. The Red team averaged 4 yards per carry and the White 5 - numbers that indicate how dominant the offensive line really was.
I'm not expecting much at this point from the linebackers and secondary. There's just too much raw talent here to really anticipate a strong defense. But the offense dominated this scrimmage and, as it is with the discussion between the defensive/offensive lines, you have to wonder if it's because the offense is just that much ahead of the defense or if the defense is really, really bad.
Last season's defense struggled at key points and while I think collectively they were a better overall unit than the offense, for a Kyle Whittingham team, the struggles did give us pause because, frankly, we're not used to that level of a struggle.
Those problems still exist.
The good news is that we still have a good amount of time to adjust and fix 'em before the first game.
If the secondary doesn't improve much between now and the opener, everything will most likely ride on the offense and in that regard, we could find ourselves in some shootouts.
But frankly, going the anemic offensive route hasn't worked for Utah. So, an increase in offensive productivity could mask some of the defensive deficiencies. Certainly that was the case for a handful of other Pac-12 programs last year - like UCLA and Arizona, whose defenses were not stellar in the least and yet, they produced fairly successful seasons.
Overall, like I said, I'm satisfied with the progress seen this spring. But there's still some questions left - namely on the defensive end.
Here are some highlights from Saturday's spring game:
Now into the off-season we go.