With the school year coming to a close for a number of universities across the country, the discussion around the upcoming football season starts to heat up once again.
The Utah Utes concluded spring ball this past Saturday with their annual Red vs. White game at Rice Eccles Stadium. The game itself is a watered down version of what we will see this fall, but it does give players a chance to showcase their skill sets heading into the summer.
As Utah heads into the next part of their offseason with a slightly better picture of where they are, there are still a lot of question marks that Coach Whittingham will need to address in the coming months. One interesting question that was brought up on the ESPN700 radio show OC and Hackett, however, was whether Utah could ever have a Heisman trophy winner. The question created some very interesting talking points and I am here to give you my two cents on why it could and could not happen.
We’ll start with why I think it could potentially happen sometime in the future. The question was posed as whether Utah could ever win the award, not necessarily in the near future. And yes the Utes always have a shot just like every other college football program in the country. Utah has a lot more disadvantages than many other teams, but they are still in a Power-5 league and on a bigger stage than they were during their Mountain West days.
Now this won’t be easy for Ute fans to swallow, but the state of Utah did produce a Heisman Trophy winner back in 1990. Granted, it came from the TDS but it proves that the state can be recognized on the big stage.
My other reason would be that because Utah is in the PAC-12 they play teams like USC, UCLA and Oregon. Ultimately, if they want to have a shot against those teams they will need to win those games to capture the attention of Heisman voters. But the point is that with a loaded conference schedule, there will be a few more eyeballs on Utah games than a decade ago. I know this isn’t exactly a long list of positives, but it still proves that it isn’t exactly impossible even if it’s not very probable.
On the other hand the amount of disadvantages facing Utah in this discussion vastly outweighs the advantages. So for the sanity of our readers, I will only mention three key points that keep Utah out of the discussion year in and out.
My first point is that in the PAC-12 there are only four teams that have a shot to be on the preseason Heisman list every year. They go in the order of USC, UCLA, Oregon and now Washington. The other eight schools will all have to go out and prove it on the field before they emerge into the spotlight.
The next reason being that the Heisman voters have set a precedent for PAC-12 schools not listed above. What they have effectively told players out west is that they need to do it twice, the most obvious example being Christian McCaffrey out of Stanford in the 2015 season. McCaffery broke the NCAA record for all-purpose yards, but finished second for the award even though the majority of experts believed he was the best player in the country. He had a shot to prove it again in 2016 but wasn’t the same player because he had a target on his back.
Finally, my third and final point is that Utah has built their program around being stout on defense but mediocre on offense. I do not believe under coach Whittingham that Utah will win a Heisman trophy. Now I don’t want to be an indictment on him because I still think he is a great and is perfect for Utah. But with the Heisman being a primarily offensive award I just don’t see Utah attracting that player unless they change their whole philosophy.
The Utes would have to have the stars align and produce a candidate with video game like numbers, but to say Utah won’t ever win a Heisman is an indictment on what their program continues to do.