This is an interesting situation. Cal goes on the road to Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City in their first ever Pac-12 matchup at Utah. Last year, hopes were high for Utah, but due to some key injuries, they underperformed. Cal had a solid victory over Utah at AT+T Park. Can we repeat on the road in 2012?
To find out more about Utah post-spring football, we talked with Jazzy Ute over at Block U. They do a great job over there at Block U in bringing all the Utah knowledge that we need to know. JUte was kind enough to answer a bunch of questions for us. You can find their answers after the jump. Many thanks to the JazzyU and GO BEARS!
1. What were the core questions that you had hoped would be answered by Spring Practice? Were conclusions reached?
1. Since Utah had a quarterback problem last season, all eyes were pretty much set on that position. I think most fans wanted to know how Jordan Wynn would look post-injury and he did pretty well, though, as expected, struggled at times. He's bulked up, which is huge (heh) because his frame the last couple seasons was scary small and you winced every time he took a hit. Now, hopefully, he'll be able to absorb the hits a bit better than can make it through an entire season without missing a game.
Beyond Wynn, though, attention was given to the other quarterbacks just in case Wynn can't complete this upcoming season. Last year, the Utes struggled when Wynn went down and though they managed to finish the season semi-strong and with a bowl victory over Georgia Tech, quarterback depth was a real issue. The coaches knew this and recruited with this in mind. Of the two quarterbacks they signed, Chase Hansen and Travis Wilson, Wilson looked the best this spring, which I think helped alleviate Ute fans' fears a bit. So, I would say the conclusion is more positive than last year, when Wynn was actually out for spring ball due to injury (and surgery).
2. Any major style changes coming our way in the fall? New offense or defense installed?
2. The offense will be adjusted now that Norm Chow has left to go coach Hawaii. Utah's new offensive coordinator is Brian Johnson who, back in 2008, was the Utes' quarterback who ran the spread option. Though I don't think the program is going fully to spread, I anticipate the offense will have bits and pieces of what we saw from 2003-2010. So, I think fans expect to be far more diverse than what we've seen and a nice blend of what the program has run the last decade or so.
3. What players emerged on offense? On defense?
3. I mentioned Travis Wilson, who I think exceeded expectations this spring. But Harvey Langi, who was a true freshman last year, was a player who certainly stepped up his ability in this spring. He struggled at times as a freshman and Utah fans are hopeful he'll start transitioning into the highly-rated running back he was out of high school.
4. What are your biggest worries coming out of spring ball for the fall?
4. I think fans are still wary with the quarterback position. The last two seasons, it's been a mess - with Wynn going down both years. We want consistency there and for Wynn to prove he can make it through an entire season without injury. But beyond that, I think Brian Johnson's lack of coordinator experience, as well as the relative youth on the offensive line. If Utah can overcome those three problems, I think they'll be a pretty good team.
5. Project your season. Contender? Pretender? Middle of the pack?
5. If Wynn can live up to his potential, they'll contend with USC for the Pac-12 South. If he's injured again, while they'll have more options now, I anticipate they'll probably be about the level they were last season - so, pretender.
6. Any frosh you can't wait to get on campus?
6. Wilson is already on campus, so, does that count?
7. Who will you miss the most from last season? Who will be stepping up to fulfill those shoes?
7. I'm going to go with Tony Bergstrom on the offensive line. As I mentioned, the line is young this go around and, as many coaches will tell you, the offense starts and stops with it. As for who'll step up, well, since he played right tackle, I guess that means Daniel Nielson, who's a freshman!
8. Any particular Pac12 match-up/rivalry you are looking forward to this Fall?
8. I think every Utah fan is looking forward to that Thursday night USC game here in Salt Lake City. If the Trojans are as good as people suggest, they might roll into SLC #1 or #2, which would be pretty awesome.
9. What are the specific injury concerns coming out of this spring?
9. The non-injury of Wynn. Does that count? He made it through spring without really going down.
10. Based on what you've seen, who is ready to take a major leap this fall?
10. Dres Anderson. He was a freshman receiver last season and I think this will prove to be his breakout year.
11. Who do you want to punch in the face?
11. Okay, so, my freeway exit a few blocks from my house built this merge lane onto this busy street I take every single day. It merges into its own lane when you exit off the freeway, yet people still manage to stop and wait, and wait, and wait for cars to pass that aren't even in this newly created lane SPECIFICALLY created so that people could easily merge off the freeway without stopping - whether the light is green or red or whatever the hell color. The only yield sign up is one telling you to yield to pedestrians BUT I NEVER SEE PEDESTRIANS. It's really annoying when you're in the final leg of your commute home and you just want to get there and some asshole in front of you decides to stop for all these cars that are in the lane to the left of the lane they're supposed to be merging into. So, I would love to punch those SOBs in the face.
12. Who's got the best nickname on the team?
12. John White IV - The Wolfman.
13. Which one of your assistant coaches is in the hot seat?
13. I don't know if any. But knowing Utah fans: Brian Johnson. We like to complain, a lot, about our offensive coordinators. Of course, we're always right (you can back us up on Ludwig - right?!?).
14. How is the new Offensive Coordinator working out?
14. So far, so good. The offense appears to be exciting and all the talk from the coaches is that it will be explosive. Of course, just words and all...
15. Is a healthy, productive QB the only missing ingredient for the Utes, or are there other question marks that need to be answered?
15. There are some concerns and I listed them above. But I think most feel if the quarterback spot is strong this season, Utah will have a fine season.