Utah Football is now in it's second week of spring practices. Here are a few notes on how the team has been progressing.
Quarterback a three way competition
The competition for starting quarterback, is at this point, a three horse race. Troy Williams, Brandon Cox and Tyler Huntley have all been splitting reps as the coaching staff looks for some separation within the group. The coaching staff seems pleased with the progress of the group as a whole so far with Aaron Roderick mentioning the unit was ahead of schedule in their progression. Considering all the quarterback issues Utah has had in the past eight years, that can only be a good sign.
Freshman Tyler Huntley has impressed in his first work as a collegiate quarterback and has shown good touch on his deep ball. Troy Williams seems to be in control in the short to intermediate throws, while Cox probably knows the offense the best having been with the program for four years. Unlike in previous years, all the quarterbacks are built similarly with comparable skill sets, live arms and athletic enough to run when needed. The coaching staff has laid out the criteria they will be judging the quarterbacks by, which is taking care of the ball, high completion percentage, high touchdown to interception ratio and moving the chains consistently. Coach Whittingham has noted all three have been effective delivering the ball when they are given time by the offensive line. Which leads us to our next topic...
Offensive Line Struggling
Despite the promise of Utah's quarterbacks, the offense has struggled mightily when going up against the Utah defense, particularily the offensive line. Is this indicative of the offensive line being bad or the defensive line being really, really good? Probably a little of both.
The defensive line is stacked with Lowell Lotuleilei, Kylie Fitts, and Filipo Mokofisi returning, not to mention finally having a healthy Hunter Dimick back in the fold. The defensive unit has had no problem making swiss cheese out of the offensive line thus far this spring. A nasty defensive line will be necessary this season as the linebacker position is still a question mark, though Cody Barton and Sunia Tauteoli have appeared to take on bigger roles and have earned praise from the coaching staff.
Offensive co-coordinator and line coach Jim Harding noted that the line needs to play better than it is currently and that there needs to be more motivation among the players in that group. The Utes are working in some new guys into the rotation, such as Darrin Paulo and Johnny Capra who redshirted last season, but Utah still has a first string group of guys all with starting experience. It's early in the spring so most everything should be taken with a grain of salt, but the poor performance has been troubling. The good news is the offensive line will get a shot in the arm when J.J Dielman returns and highly touted prospect Garett Bolles joins the team officially in the summer.
Guy Holliday bringing energy to receiving group
Receiver is an area that has plagued Utah recently as well. Whittingham made a point of addressing the position this winter bringing in receivers coach Guy Holliday from BYU to turn the unit around. Signs of improvement at the position are promising at this point. Holliday has been very demanding with the group, getting in their ear if he doesn't like what he's seeing.
The staff seems focused on bringing more speed to the position this year with the move of Cory Butler-Byrd to receiver full time. Kyle Fulks, another speedster who saw limited action last year, has also seen a lot of action this spring and has impressed. Whittingham has acknowledged Fulks was probably underutilized last season, but he'll get his shot this year with Britain Covey on a mission and Kenneth Scott graduated. Freshman early enrollee Demari Simpkins, a high school teammate of Tyler Huntley, has also impressed this spring leading to high hopes for this receiving group moving forward.
Utah's next practice open to the public will be on Friday from 4:30-6:30 MT