clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Utah football: What we learned from spring ball

New, 5 comments

With no football for a couple more months, we look back at three things we learned during Spring camp.

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

With no football for a couple more months, we look back at three things we learned during spring camp.

1. The defense will again be dominant.

The defensive unit pretty much picked up right where they left off, looking every bit as ferocious as they did last season. The defense looked fast and athletic during the spring making things difficult on the offensive unit.

"Everybody knows that no one's going to out hit us, " said defensive end Jason Fanaika.

The defense returns nine starters, but with big names like second round draft picks Nate Orchard and Eric Rowe departing, along with Brian Blechen there was some question about how big of a toll their losses would take. Fortunately for the Utes, Fanaika, a great player in his own right, will take over Orchard's old spot it appears. Fanaika looked good in spring after playing linebacker last season and has the potential to have a big season at his more natural position of defensive end. At the other end position, Kylie Fitts looks to be a big time addition, adding depth to an already dominant defensive line. Tevin Carter returns to take over Blechen's old spot, and Reggie Porter is back at the cornerback position. The linebacking corps of Jason Whittingham, Jared Norris and Gionni Paul will be one of, if not the top linebacker units in the Pac-12 in 2015.

2. The Utes have depth

Coming off a 9-4 season with nine starters on defense returning and seven starters on offense, including dark horse Heisman candidate Devontae Booker, it's clear the front line talent is there to make a run at Pac-12 south title this Fall. The question going into spring was if there was enough talent behind the starters to fill in when the inevitable injuries occur. The question was answered with a resounding yes. Defensively, Boobie Hobbs and Brian Allen both showed up during the spring game and flashed their athleticism and skills. Tevin Carter's backup, Marcus Williams came into spring camp more physically developed than he was last year, having added 10-12 pounds. He capped the spring game off with a 99 yard interception return for a touchdown. ""He's really got a bright future," Whittingham noted. On offense, Monte Seabrook showed his versatility at both receiver and running back during the spring, showing well particularly at running back.

3. The new coaches are fitting in

The off-season drama that came with the exodus of both coordinators could have derailed the upcoming season before it even started. Fortunately, Whittingham was able to right the ship in time by promoting Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding to co-offensive coordinators. In addition to the in house promotions, Whittingham brought in some new (and old) faces to round out his revamped coaching staff. So far the reviews have been positive from the players on their new coaches. Roderick and Harding have previously established relationships with the players and were able to keep much of the terminology and offensive concepts the same. The transition seemed to go much smoother through the spring than it did last year with Dave Christensen. At tight end, new position coach Lewis Powell is enjoying his transition from being a defensive line coach.  A member of the 2003 Las Vegas Bowl team, Powell is comfortable coaching at his alma mater and is soaking up all the knowledge he can from veterans Dennis Erickson and Kyle Whittingham.

Defensively, John Pease came out of retirement to coordinate the defense and has attacked the challenge of replacing Kilani Sitake with enthusiasm, bringing an old school, tough love approach to which the players seem to be responding to favorably. Justin Ena, the former defensive coordinator at Southern Utah and Weber State joined on as linebackers coach. Ena, who played with and remains friends with Kalani Sitake, has stepped in and picked up right where the former defensive coordinator left off with the linebackers, prompting Kyle Whittingham to remark "He's been great. The players love him. They've embraced him".

Only 120 days until the Utes take on the Michigan Wolverines at Rice-Eccles stadium!