The majority of Utah’s veteran players reported to football practice in good shape Thursday, but it was the group of newcomers who coach Kyle Whittingham was really excited to see.
“No doubt we’ve really helped ourselves with this recruiting class,” he said. “There is no doubt we upped our talent level.”
Many of the newcomers, including offensive linemen J.J. Dielman, Carlos Lozano and Jeremiah Poutasi, will get plenty of looks during Utah’s camp to see how much they can help the team this year.
“We’ve added four or five bodies there and that group is starting to look how it’s supposed to look for a Pac-12 team,” he said.
Whittingham predicts several of the newcomers will play, especially with the Utes needing depth along the offensive line and in the linebacker unit and secondary.
Heading into his eighth year as Utah’s head coach, Whittingham said he has never had a class that could have the impact of the current group and credited his coaches’ recruiting efforts.
“We recruit raw talent,” he said. “We make sure we cover our bases and have bodies at each position, but we never pass up one football player who is better at one position and take a lesser guy just because we have more depth. We take the best we can and fit them in.”
Defensive linemen Junior Salt and Tenny Palepoi are others aiming to earn playing time, as is running back and junior college transfer Kelvin York.
As for the veterans, they didn’t look too shabby either. Quarterback Jordan Wynn, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the fourth game of the year, looked strong in his throwing motion while receiver Kenneth Scott and York made some nice plays.
“It was a good day,” Wynn said. “We were clean on offense with no mistakes. That is the main thing, to come out and be clean.”
Unlike last year, when Wynn was limited in the number of throws he could make in practice, he has no restrictions on him this fall.
“It has been a rough two years but I’ve gotten stronger,” he said. “Going back to my freshman year, I haven’t felt this good.”
At 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, Wynn said he is determined to make it through an entire season without an injury. For a guy who has had three surgeries in his college career and missed so many games he is considered a junior despite heading into his fourth year, staying healthy could be one of Wynn’s biggest challenges this year.
However, Whittingham likes the way Wynn is playing now, showing none of the hesitancy in his decision-making or lapses in his throwing motion as he did last year.
“He is throwing better than ever,” he said.
With former quarterback Brian Johnson taking over as the offensive coordinator, the Utes are going back to more of a spread offense that will have more variety than it did last year.
“We like what he has done with it,” running back John White said. “He is going to be using everyone, so it’s going to be exciting.”