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Utes might need longer than a bye week to correct problems

Published September 23, 2012 11:24 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Utes have 12 days to get ready for USC thanks to a bye week. It still might not be enough time. The Utes could use a few extra weeks, maybe another recruiting class and another fall camp to get ready. Things appear to be that bad on the hill these days. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said his concerns are with every phase of Utah's game right now. On Saturday he looked like a man who believed his words. Complicating matters are more injuries, with offensive lineman Vyncent Jones hurting his right knee and backup corner Wykie Freeman going out of Saturday's game. Whittingham said it was time to look at some personnel changes, but suddenly the Utes are looking very limited in the changes they can make thanks to depth issues. The secondary has been questionable this year, but the way the defense broke down as a whole surprised me Saturday. The Utes have seven returning starters from last year yet they look like a whole new group. After the game safety Brian Blechen said the Utes allowed the Sun Devils to build a 'big snowball we couldn't stop.' He was right. Utah's defense broke down numerous times, even though Whittingham said the Utes were ready for most of ASU's schemes. "Their first touchdown in man coverage was something we worked on all week," a clearly frustrated Whittingham said of Taylor Kelly's 38-yard touchdown strike. Corner Moe Lee has been burned several times now and was replaced in the game, but his spot isn't the only area the Utes are struggling. The defensive line gave up huge chunks and overall there is a lack of cohesiveness, which is stunning for a group that features several veterans. Both Blechen and Dave Kruger said the defenders have to do a better job of trusting each other and Saturday's result wasn't because the Utes were unprepared. "It's different guys losing their eyes, not seeing a guy go across the middle or the play action," Blechen said. "We were biting on the double moves and making uncharacteristic mistakes in the first half. We have to trust each other a lot of the time." So it sounds like defensively the Utes need to work on chemistry as well as their schemes. Offensively the Utes have another whole set of worries. The run game is no longer suspect, it's in trouble. How much of the struggles are due to the offensive line and how much are on the running backs themselves doesn't matter, the bottom line is the Utes aren't getting the production they need to help quarterback Jon Hays. Hays got knocked around banged up too and was lucky he came away with just one interception given the way he chucked a few of the balls when defenders were breathing down his neck. But as Whittingham said, the Utes can't throw in the towel, they have to find a way to compete. Clearly the Utes have to get more creative with the offense because they simply don't have an offensive line that can give Hays much time. If I'm Brian Johnson I am calling up my good friend and mentor Dan Mullen, now the coach at Mississippi State, and having a nice long chat with him this week to get some ideas and inspiration. Right now the Utes need all the help they can get. - Lya Wodraska