Sure, Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham liked the consistency he saw in his defensive line during spring practice. He also liked the depth at running back and how his quarterbacks developed.
But more than anything else, he liked the effort he saw from his team every day.
“They had a great attitude and work ethic,” he said. “It was apparent they truly enjoyed what they were doing and had a lot of energy every day.”
Rarely will a coach say he or she is unhappy with a team’s work ethic, making Whittingham’s comment seem more of a cliché than an honest evaluation.
But Whittingham said the recent effort was special. The Utes didn’t have the down periods teams typically go through during the spring, and they worked at a higher level than his previous teams.
“I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and make any predictions or anything, but their attitude and the way they went about their business was great,” he said. “Those are the intangibles, the work ethic and leadership, you need out of a good team.”
From a technical standpoint, the Utes went into spring ball wanting to develop depth, primarily along the offensive line and with their linebackers.
Both areas saw improvement, Whittingham said, but will be priorities in the fall, too.
The Utes signed 15 linemen in their 2012 class, including several junior college players.
Whittingham will wait until he sees those players in preseason camp before anointing any would-be starters along the O-line.
The linebacker unit is deep but inexperienced, with junior Trevor Reilly being the most seasoned.
“Both areas are a work in progress,” Whittingham said. “They need to continue to develop in the summer workouts and fall camp. We won’t have either one of those positions solidified until well into fall camp.”
Another spot that is more intriguing than ever is the quarterback position. Returner Jordan Wynn was solid in his first effort back from shoulder surgery, but freshman Travis Wilson was a head-turner, too.
The Utes also have the returning Jon Hays and freshman Chase Hansen available.
“We’re in much better shape going into this season than we were last season,” Whittingham said. “It was obviously a deficiency for us, and we definitely got better, in general, and in spring practices.”
With Wilson separating himself from Hansen, and Hays a proven capable backup, Whittingham hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Hansen could go on a mission before playing.
“We need to have that discussion and determine what is best,” he said. “It’s too early to say right now, but it is a possibility. We’ll talk about it and make sure we do the right thing.”
The running back position got a surprising boost with the emergence of Harvey Langi, a highly touted recruit out of Bingham High School who was given several chances to earn playing time as a freshman.
Playing along with returner John White and newcomer Kelvin York, Langi more than held his own.
“He’d be the candidate for the Most Improved Player,” Whittingham said. “The light switch went on for Harvey this spring, and he was performing like we envisioned he would out of high school. It was very positive to see that happen.”
Overall, it was generally a positive experience for the Utes, Whittingham said.
“It has been a combination of the coaches and players feeding off each other,” he said. “We have a good group of players, and they have great attitudes.”
What we learned
Quarterback Jordan Wynn and his surgically repaired shoulder looked strong in camp, showing no ill effects from the injury that cut short his 2011 season.
Of the newcomers, freshman quarterback Travis Wilson made the biggest impact. Sophomore running back Harvey Langi was the most improved player, in coach Kyle Whittingham’s estimation.
The offensive line remains a big question mark due to lack of experience, but there is depth at running back and receiver.
The Utes have a solid, deep defensive line, but still have to find depth at linebacker.