Utah’s Red-White Game is scaled-down football, but there will still be plenty to see

Offensive line play, kicking and the passing game will be worth watching Saturday.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Quarterback Jason Shelley, #15, passes off to TJ Green, #4, as the Utah Utes hold their Spring scrimmage at Rice Eccles stadium on Saturday, March 30, 2019.

The Utah Athletics video promoting Saturday’s Red-White Game lasts 52 seconds. That’s longer than many of the Utes’ front-line players will appear in the annual event at Rice-Eccles Stadium to conclude spring football practice.

This is what happens when quarterback Jordan Wynn reflexively dives to recover a fumble: The next generation of starters is held out of the spring game, because coaches worry about anyone being injured in the last of the 15 sessions.

Wynn’s shoulder injury in the 2010 Red-White Game as a returning starter was among “a few bad experiences through the years,” Ute coach Kyle Whttingham said this week. “We’ve gotten more conservative as we’ve gone along.”


Saturday's schedule

6 a.m. – West parking lot open for tailgating.

9 a.m. – West gates open; MUSS flag football game.

10 a.m. – Alumni flag football game.

11 a.m. – Red-White Game, Pac-12 Networks.

Amid traffic issues involving the Salt Lake City Marathon, a free, printable TRAX pass is available at UtahUtes.com.

So about one-third of Utah’s starters will participate Saturday, Whittingham said, and only for a half. Two scrimmages that were open to the public offered a much better look at top players and the new offensive scheme than will be seen Saturday, when the Pac-12 Networks will televise the event. Even so, it’s free and it’s football. And other reasons exist for fans to attend the event, in the last chance to see the Utes on the field before the Aug. 29 season opener at BYU.

• The offensive line will get extensive work. Utah’s biggest personnel questions revolve around this group, and the linemen will play for both teams, due to their low numbers. The linemen showed improvement in last week’s major scrimmage and need a strong finish of the spring to reduce some fears about them, with other key players arriving on campus this summer.

• Utah needs to discover a kicker. Chayden Johnston and Jadon Redding will test themselves in a game environment, after each performed inconsistently in the scrimmages. Matt Gay is gone, after making 56 of 65 field goal attempts in two seasons. Maybe one of the kickers will have a game-winning opportunity’s like Gay’s 57-yarder last April.

• The passing game is evolving. Regardless of whether starting quarterback Tyler Huntley plays Saturday, some elements of offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s scheme will be displayed. One-on-one competition between the receivers and defensive backs has been interesting to watch this spring, partly because of the precise, intricate routes of the receivers. And quarterbacks Jason Shelley, Drew Lisk and Cameron Rising all have done some good things.

• There’s a good cause. Fans are being asked to wear gold, promoting awareness of pediatric cancer and support of the Hayes Tough Foundation, an initiative of former Ute defensive back Steve Tate. The first 500 fans will receive a T-shirt and bracelet, with the west gates opening at 9 a.m.