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Utah football: What we know about Utes after spring ball

College football » The Utes revamped their offense and shuffled some players’ positions during spring practices. What’s next?

First Published Apr 20 2014 10:37 am • Last Updated Apr 21 2014 12:26 pm

Now that Utah’s spring camp is in the books, the countdown to meaningful action begins: T-minus three-and-a-half months.

Er — make that one-and-a-half months.

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Fall camp starts Aug. 4, but NCAA rule changes will give coaches unprecedented access to players who arrive for summer work in June. One of those players, Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson, will vie for the reins of the Ute offense this fall.

Then, in July, doctors will decide whether current starting quarterback Travis Wilson is fit for contact. If so, they’ll determine if and when to conduct further tests on his damaged intracranial artery.

So, the U. may not sell any programs, and media access will be limited, but the so-called dead period is anything but.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at what was revealed while the mountains thawed and what to expect as the mercury rises.

It’s not a new offense, but … » When he wasn’t correcting coverages or alignments, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham was correcting reporters.

It’s not a new offense, he’d say. It’s still a spread offense. You can ask about the offense’s new elements, tweaks, or emphasis, but inquire about coordinator Dave Christensen’s "new offense" and incur Whittingham’s pigskin pedantry.

However, players spent a lot of time talking about it, and Christensen himself gave frequent updates on the status of its installation. To the casual observer, Utah seemed to use two tight ends less often than it did last season, and two backs quite a bit more.


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Tempo was also stressed even more than it has been in recent years. Coaches used a 20-second play clock in crossover work and gave the offense a delay-of-game penalty when they didn’t get the snap off.

But Whittingham is right, of course. Christensen does not bring wholesale change from the offense Brian Johnson and Dennis Erickson installed last spring, and while the Utes looked explosive at Saturday’s spring game (734 total yards), they did as well in 2013 (797).

The old switcheroo » It wouldn’t be a Utah spring camp without them:

Senior Eric Rowe moves from free safety, where he’s started for three years, to cornerback. Sophomore Marcus Sanders-Williams is a running back one week, and the next he’s starting in a scrimmage at middle linebacker.

Utah has a tradition of finding a new fit for guys at positions of excess supply. This spring, by a rough count, eight players plied a new trade, and that’s not counting the musical chairs on the offensive line.

Rowe is billed as a possible all-conference cornerback. His ability to stick there this fall, though, hinges on whether coaches feel comfortable with a host of less-proven free safety candidates who include senior Tevin Carter, junior Charles Henderson and incoming freshmen Andre Godfrey, Monte Seabrook or Marcus Williams.

Other switches: senior Greg Reese from tight end to defensive end, redshirt freshman Filipo Mokofisi from defensive end to defensive tackle, redshirt freshman Clarence Smith from linebacker to defensive end, redshirt freshman McKay Murphy from defensive line to offensive line, redshirt freshman Micah Thomas from quarterback to wide receiver and sophomore Hipolito Corporan from cornerback to safety.

When twos become ones » Fourteen likely fall starters didn’t play in the spring game.

Some were recovering from offseason surgeries. Linebackers Gionni Paul (broken foot) and Jacoby Hale (torn ACL) were injured during camp. Still others, like junior receiver Kenneth Scott and senior strong safety Brian Blechen, could play tomorrow, but they’re just too important to risk.

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