Utah football: With rare December off, Utes turn focus to 2013
Utah's football coaches continue the tedious task of breaking down the 2012 football season. Each play and each scheme is broken out and analyzed to determine which worked, which didn't and why.
Of course, the Utes don't need any kind of fancy spreadsheet or tracking method to know things went wrong, terribly wrong, in 2012.
The Utes were picked to finish second in the Pac-12 South but didn't even qualify for a bowl game.
"It was disappointing," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in looking back on the season. "We expect to go to bowl games. That is the standard here, and we know we have our work cut out for us this offseason."
Instead of dwelling on the shortcomings, though, the Utes already are focused on what they need to do to improve their success rating in 2013.
Of immediate need is finding reliable lineups in virtually all areas, Whittingham said. The Utes used three different quarterbacks in 2012, various offensive schemes and numerous lineups on defense. The result was an ineffective offense and numerous breakdowns in the defense.
Of utmost concern for Whittingham, however, is the offense, where Utah averaged just 324.4 yards a game.
Even without breaking down the film, Whittingham knows Utah must improve in the red zone, where out of 40 drives the Utes had just 15 rushing touchdowns and 11 passing TDs.
"We have to do a better job of getting into the end zone; that was very apparent," Whittingham said. "That is the No. 1 thing we have to address."
Whittingham believes the growth that Travis Wilson showed through the course of the season will help the Utes in 2013. After four seasons of the fragile Jordan Wynn in and out at QB, the Utes hope Wilson can be a more durable guy who can withstand the rigors of the Pac-12.
While not always ecstatic to see their quarterback leveling defenders in a blocking scheme or jumping over defensive linemen, Whittingham at least likes the moxie Wilson showed.
"We need to establish continuity at quarterback," he said. "With Jordan's injuries, we weren't able to have sustained quarterbacks through the course of the year, and we have to develop that. You have to have continuity at quarterback to be successful in this league."
Defensively, the Utes knew youth would be an issue, but Whittingham said they were surprised by how much injuries added to Utah's struggles.
"It seemed like we were rotating new bodies in there every week," he said. "Just when guys like Jacoby Hale and Reshawn Hooker started playing good football, they got banged up. It was a case of the learning curve being much steeper at linebacker than we thought it would be."
The solution to most of the issues is recruiting more depth and more talent, Whittingham said.
Particularly on offense, the Utes need what Whittingham calls "impact players," athletes like USC's Robert Woods, Washington's Bishop Sankey and others who blistered the Utes for big gains throughout the season.
So far, the Utes have more than 20 players committed to their 2013 recruiting class but are hitting the road for more.
Linemen and corners remain high on the Utes' wish list.
"Every week, we went up against tremendous athletes," Whittingham said. "We need to add some and continue to add to our depth and talent. Obviously, recruiting is the way to do that, so it is our priority right now."
While the coaches are out on the road recruiting, the Utes already have started their workouts with an eye on 2013.
"We have extreme determination," Whittingham said. "We are used to a certain standard around here and getting certain results, and everyone is disappointed and frustrated. They couldn't wait to get back at it and start preparing for next year. They have an impressive attitude and hunger."
A look ahead
Key players lost • The Utes had 25 seniors on their 2012 team, including key starters such as defensive lineman Dave Kruger, Star Lotulelei, offensive lineman Sam Brenner, running back John White and corner Ryan Lacy.
Key players joining the Utes • Devonte Booker, a junior college running back and Davion Orphey, a junior college corner, should provide some immediate help. The Utes have two quarterbacks who will enroll in Conner Manning, a Lake Forest, Calif., product and Brandon Cox, a quarterback out of Pasadena, Calif.
Biggest offseason priority • Recruiting linemen and corners are Utah's priority now. Two linemen the Utes are interested in are Reeve Koehler, a 6-3, 280-pound lineman out of Honolulu, and David Maka, a 6-3, 315-pound lineman out of Tustin, Calif.
Comings and goings • Quarterback Chase Hansen will leave for his mission in a few weeks. The Utes will welcome back lineman Derek Tuimauga, who returns from his mission in time to participate in spring ball.