Kragthorpe: Thirteen thoughts about Utah college football

Published August 3, 2012 6:34 pm

College football • Quarterbacks, coordinators and "Crazy Lady" impact upcoming season.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Utah interrupted the series with BYU, Weber State hired two head coaches, Utah State received a program-saving invitation and the Crazy Lady's time slot was moved.

There's just no such thing as an uneventful offseason in college football.

As preseason practice begins this week, here are 13 questions, observations and musings — one for every week of the regular season — regarding the state's teams:

• After quarterback Jon Hays was relegated to fourth string during spring drills as Utah's coaching staff gave extra work to the rehabilitating Jordan Wynn and evaluated two freshmen, he's now No. 2 on the depth chart. That's a shrewd move in the interest of reducing the clamoring for freshman Travis Wilson, who's currently No. 3.

• Ute safety Brian Blechen's three-game suspension conveniently provides a gauge of how much the players themselves will miss competing in Utah-BYU games in 2014 and '15. You'd better believe it will be killing Blechen to sit out against the Cougars.

• The Utes are launching a new in-game tradition by moving the dancing Crazy Lady ­— no further description needed ­— to the end of halftime and introducing a huge drum and cannon blasts to provide a rallying point going into the fourth quarter. The dramatic effect may be reduced when Utah already is leading Northern Colorado 52-0.

• BYU and Utah are among few teams with seniors as their No. 2 quarterbacks. Considering their heralded 2013 schedule, the Cougars may have to rethink James Lark's status and help prepare Taysom Hill and Ammon Olsen for next season.

• As for 2012, the Cougars' season hinges on how they perform in six days in September (games at Utah and Boise State) and eight days in October (trips to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech).

• Quoting my August 2011 profile of Riley Nelson: "What's clear is how different his life is today, compared with last August."

That statement is true again. Then, he was competing with Lark for the No. 2 slot behind Jake Heaps, while playing on the punt-coverage team. Now, he's being asked to duplicate the 11-win senior seasons of former quarterbacks John Beck and Max Hall.

• Entering his second season, BYU's Brandon Doman is the most experienced offensive coordinator of a Football Bowl Subdivision team in Utah. Utah's Brian Johnson and Utah State's Matt Wells also are ex-quarterbacks holding those positions at their old schools.

• After suffering for 50 years by being left out in the formation of the Western Athletic Conference, Utah State finally caught a break. The Aggies were invited to join the Mountain West in 2013. Before then, they're positioned for their first conference championship in 15 years.

Attrition is helping, with Hawaii, Fresno State and Nevada out of the WAC, as USU is picked second in presumably the WAC's final season of football and should play for the title at Louisiana Tech in November.

• The last time the Aggies made consecutive bowl appearances? Fifty-one years ago. That's why there's a Merlin Olsen statue on the Romney Stadium plaza.

• Coach Gary Andersen deserves the credit for USU's turnaround, but he did inherit some good players. Linebacker Bobby Wagner and running back Robert Turbin became the highest-drafted pair of Aggies since Rulon Jones and Eric Hipple in 1980 — each taken by Seattle in the first four rounds.

• The hits just keep coming for Weber State. Jody Sears was promoted to interim head coach in April when the newly hired John L. Smith bolted to Arkansas. Sears now must replace his offensive line coach after Cecil Thomas became Granger High School's coach last week.

• After receiver Bradon Godfrey and linebacker Mike Wright transferred from Southern Utah to Utah, it is only fair that SUU finally got a Ute in return. Griff McNabb, whose 31-yard punt return led to the tying touchdown in the Sun Bowl, is now a Thunderbird receiver.

• Because of Thursday games, no Utah schools will be playing at home Saturday, Sept. 1. Fortunately, the schedule of televised games runs from 7 a.m. MDT (Notre Dame vs. Navy in Ireland) to almost midnight.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt