The Utah Utes wasted no time getting into an up-tempo mode as Tuesday’s opening spring practice was all about hurrying up the offense.
After a season in which the Utes averaged only 67 plays a game, co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson is determined to have the Utes averaging 70 or 80 plays a game.
His influence was immediate on Tuesday with a noticeable change in pace.
"Everything is a lot faster for us," quarterback Travis Wilson said. "He has brought new ideas, new additions to the package we already have."
Erickson liked what the Utes were doing in 2009 and 2010 and hopes his tweaks can get the Utes back to that kind of quick-paced offense.
Utah averaged just 66 plays a game in those years, but was much more productive than a year go, with Utah averaging 31.5 points in 2009-10. Utah averaged 26.7 points in 2012.
"We’re not doing anything new," Erickson said. "It’s not rocket science. We’re going no-huddle and being organized from getting to Point A to B to C."
Erickson said he didn’t realize how much he missed football, noting, "You can only play golf bad so many times a year."
"It was a perfect opportunity for me," he said. "I am here to help on offense and help the players get better."
Avoiding a complete overhaul is important for the Utes so they don’t take a step backward. It’s early, but so far it is going well, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
"He is adding a great deal to what we are doing offensively," Whittingham said of Erickson. "It’s not an overhaul by any means, but he did exactly what we hoped to do: streamline things and add some wrinkles. We got off to a good start and added a lot of offense for Day 1."
The Utes failed to qualify for a bowl game, but still made good use of the offseason by hitting the weight room hard.
Whittingham said he gave the Utes an "A-plus" for those efforts.
"The players were eager and willing to learn and had a great tempo throughout practice," he said. "Travis Wilson has a much stronger arm this year. It was a good start, and we hope to build on this in Day 2."
Returner Kelvin York is penciled in as the starting running back but continues to be slowed by turf toe, Whittingham said.
Whittingham said Victor Spikes, who would have been a senior linebacker next year, has parted ways with the Utes based on a "mutual decision."
"There were some things we weren’t happy about, and we just thought it best for both to part ways," he said.
The secondary saw a lot of turnover from the offseason, but Whittingham is encouraged by the efforts of the newcomers.
"I like the ethic of the guys battling for jobs and their focus and attention to detail," he said. "They are short on experience, but we are pleased by what we are coming away with in spring ball."
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