Cal Football: Post Spring Q+A About Utah Football with Block U

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

We continue our post-spring look at various Pac-12 football teams with Utah, one of the newest members to our esteemed conference. Special thanks to JazzyUte of Block U for taking the time to answer all of our questions.

1. What were the core questions that you had hoped would be answered by Spring Practice? Were conclusions reached?

JazzyUte: I think heading into spring ball, most Utah fans wanted to see the development of the offensive line. It struggled last year (really an understatement) and I think we all realize for the Utes to succeed in 2013, that’ll have to change. Fortunately, it appears the line has improved (at least the coaches believe so) and that’s a huge step in the right direction for an offense that, let’s be honest, has been dreadful since joining the Pac-12. Beyond the line, I think most focused in on the offense – namely the quarterbacks because this was a spot Utah struggled with last year. Travis Wilson, who came is a true freshman midway through the season, was a bit inconsistent, but finished spring strong and his backup, Adam Schulz, had a very productive spring. We hope that bodes well for the offense, especially in terms of depth. So, those two questions were answered, at least somewhat, now we wait and see whether our answers were correct.

2. Any major style changes coming our way in the fall? New offense or defense installed?

JazzyUte: Utah’s defense isn’t going to see a radical adjustment considering Kyle Whittingham has pretty much run the same defense since becoming Utah’s defensive coordinator in 1995 – that being the 4-3. There was some chatter about the team adjusting to the 3-4, but I would be surprised if that was ultimately the base defense. So, there could be some adjustments, but not a radical overhaul. On the offensive end, Utah brought in Dennis Erickson, who wants to run a spread offense that is probably a bit more aggressive than what the Utes ran under Brian Johnson last year. We’ll see how that works out. Norm Chow came in and altered the offense and while the Utes ranked toward the bottom of the conference, they still managed a respectable 8-5 season under his veteran leadership. With Johnson at the helm, though, the offense continued to struggle, was less efficient and eventually Utah produced its worst record in a decade. Hopefully Erickson can not only recharge the offense, but also use his past experience to lead the team in a way Chow did for one season.

3. What players emerged on offense? On defense?

JazzyUte: On offense, I’d have to say Karl Williams, who really stepped up in his role as running back. I doubt he’ll start, as Kelvin York shared starting minutes at times with John White IV last season and returns this season, but he could prove a viable offensive threat and it wouldn’t shock me if both York and Williams shared minutes. Defensively, I’m gonna have to pass because there just were too many injuries to get a good read.

Karl Williams post red-white game (via Landon Hemsley)

4. What are your biggest worries coming out of spring ball for the fall?

JazzyUte: I think the defense, offense and special teams. This was a 5-7 team last year and though you hope for progress, the fact remains that it’s still going to hang over the team until they prove they’re better than that. I know a lot of fans are skeptical because of everything that happened in 2012 and that skepticism fuels their worries.

5. Project your season. Contender? Pretender? Middle of the pack?

JazzyUte: I don’t see Utah contending ... but I think they’ll be good enough. So, a middle of the pack 6 or 7 win regular season team.

6. Any frosh you can't wait to get on campus?

JazzyUte: Brandon Cox, a quarterback, looks superb. I’m excited to see what he does and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got minutes since he’s a very mobile quarterback in an offense that will probably like to utilize such ability.

7. Who will you miss the most from last season? Who will be stepping up to fulfill those shoes?

JazzyUte: Star Lotulelei leaving is huge, as well as Reggie Dunn, who proved to be a huge spark on special teams. I’m not ready to say anyone can step up and fill those roles right now.

8. Any particular Pac12 match-up/rivalry you are looking forward to this Fall?

JazzyUte: I’m looking forward to the Oregon State game. I think that’ll prove to be the first real measuring stick. A win there would be huge and a loss could prove crippling, especially since it’s at home

9. What are the specific injury concerns coming out of this spring?

JazzyUte: I mentioned the defense, but I’m not too concerned there.

Did U Know? - Utah Football's Travis Wilson (via uathletics)

10. Based on what you've seen, who is ready to take a major leap this fall?

JazzyUte: I think Travis Wilson. He was shaky as a freshman starter, but I’ve got faith he’ll turn it on this season.

11.The last two seasons seem uncharacteristic for Kyle Whittingham. Is it the change in conferences, or something else?

JazzyUte: I think the change in conference has definitely played a role, but so has hitching our wagon to Jordan Wynn. I love the guy, but 2010 was his last good season and we rode him two more years than we should have, which put the program in a hole. I don’t entirely blame the coaches, because Wynn was still the best option in 2011, but after his third injury, they should have realized things were not going to end well and sure enough, they didn’t. So, 2012 is less excusable because they knew he had a pattern of going down and they still invested in him to the point where he was the starter when he had no business being the starter ... and that all proved itself out the second week of the season when he went down with a career ending injury to Utah State. It set the program back a few years and now they’re finally catching up.

12. With Star gone, who steps in to plug the middle?

JazzyUte: Tenny Palepoi ... but that’s asking a lot considering Star was a legitimate top-ten draft pick.

13. Do you have a QB on the roster not held together with baling wire and bubble gum?

JazzyUte: I think Travis Wilson *knocks on wood*. He doesn’t look bulky, but he’s tough and took some hits last season without ever being rattled like Wynn. We’ll see, though.

14. Who do you want to punch in the face?

JazzyUte: Someone political.
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