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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Whittingham impressed with Utes' work in spring

Couldn't tell yesterday when I spoke to coach Kyle Whittingham if he was huffing and puffing because he really was working out like he claimed he was, or if he was just hyperventilating over the excitement of his football team.

Whittingham, whose team wrapped up its spring session Saturday, seems more excited about his 2012 Utes than any team in past years.

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The followup story will be in the Salt Lake Tribune soon, but the overall theme from Whittingham was the team's effort to work hard every day was a step up even for a team known for its hard work.

"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."

Whittingham called running back Harvey Langi the most improved player in spring since he showed the talent the Utes expected out of him as a freshman.

Whittingham was extremely complimentary of his quarterbacks, noting returning starter Jordan Wynn looked strong.

"He is throwing the ball better since he arrived here," Whittingham said. "He is stronger and bigger and his delivery and mechanics are much better this spring."

Freshmen quarterbacks Travis Wilson and Chase Hansen both had good springs, but Wilson separated himself from Hansen in the last half of the session and showed signs of the talent that should make him the No. 2 guy as the Utes enter the season.

Who knows, if Wynn falters, Wilson could be ready to step in and lead the Utes.

With Wynn and Wilson looking so strong and Jon Hays, a proven player, available, Whittingham hasn't ruled out the possibility of Hansen going on a mission.

He said that possibility will be something which the Utes will discuss with Hansen this week.

From the outside looking in, it seems it would be in Hansen's best interest to serve now since the Utes are so loaded at the position.

As for other spots, Whittingham likes the depth at running back and receiver.

"We have a veteran group of receivers since most of last year's crew is returning and we expect them to be steady performers this year," he said.

Whittingham said the priority now is recruiting. In that regard, the Utes picked up a commitment from Leroy Sitake Tanoai, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive lineman out of Sherman Oaks, Calif., Wednesday.

Tanoai is a relative of Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake. He had offers from other western schools including BYU, Washington, UCLA and Hawaii.

I missed the Red-White game since I was covering Utah's gymnastics team at the NCAA Championships, but some of my overall impressions from camp that stood out was the improved play of Wilson and how deep the Utes are at tight end.

Aaron Roderick, whose new title is passing game coordinator, wants to use the tight ends a lot more in 2012. It seems he has manpower to use them in a variety of ways with Jake Murphy and Westlee Tonga looking good in the spring session.

Whittingham said the Utes haven't decided whether to leave Tonga at tight end or move him back to the defensive side of the ball, but given how well he did, I'd be surprised if Tonga is moved back to the defense.

Areas of concern still continue to be the youth on the offensive line and the linebacker spot. The secondary too is thin on experience, but Utah has done a great job in the past of cultivating solid players in those areas so there is no reason to doubt their abilities to do so now.

I really liked how some of the young receivers looked, particularly Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott.

The defensive line could be the Utes' best, with the Kruger brothers looking stronger and bigger than ever and Star Lotulelei anchoring the line.

Elsewhere, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott continues to try to preserve the Pac-12 and Big Ten's traditional meeting in the Rose Bowl even as college football officials discuss revising the BCS system.

The movement behind a four-team playoff scenario is gaining momentum, although there is a desire to maintain the Rose Bowl's allegiance to the Pac-12 and Big Ten.

It seems Scott recognizes that possibility won't fly.

Personally, I think the traditional ties to the Rose Bowl are overblown. It's the Rose Bowl itself that oozes tradition. I don't think the general college football fan would care which teams are participating, especially if it means college football can have at least some semblance of a playoff system using the top four teams.

What do you think, stick with the Pac-12/Big Ten allegiance or should the Rose Bowl be a part of a new BCS system?

- Lya Wodraska

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