There is a gigantic football game involving the University of Utah on Friday night. With the Utes making yet another run to the Pac-12 title game, should Kyle Whittingham’s top assistants’ names be mentioned more for coaching vacancies elsewhere? That’s where we’re going to kick this week’s mailbag off.
As always if you have a question for the Utah Utes mailbag, you can fire off a tweet to @Joshua_Newman, slide into my DMs, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or even leave a comment at the bottom of this story.
Q: “Why aren’t any of the Utah assistants mentioned in any coaching searches? Does that change now that Fresno State is open?” -- @bjb2434
A: Which Utah assistants do you think should be up for head coaching positions, because there’s only three coaches on staff — Andy Ludwig, Morgan Scalley, and Jim Harding — who have experience as an offensive or defensive coordinator at the FBS level.
Let’s focus on Scalley as it pertains to the Fresno State job, which is now open with Kalen DeBoer gone to Washington.
Scalley’s name was on the radar in December 2019 when UNLV and Fresno State both had openings. This time around, The Fresno Bee has lobbed Scalley’s name out there as a potential replacement for DeBoer, but there doesn’t seem to be much behind that.
Well, why not?
Two theories: One, there is still a stench following Scalley, who was suspended in June 2020 as Utah investigated a social media post which referenced a 2013 text message from Scalley that included racist language. He was reinstated the following month, but took a paycut and had his head coach-in-waiting status stripped by athletic director Mark Harlan.
Two, Scalley, 42, is better off biding his time at Utah because, assuming Kyle Whittingham retires in the next few years, maybe Scalley winds up as Utah’s head coach anyway. At a minimum, whenever Whittingham does decide to retire, Scalley’s name is on the short list of potential successors.
Personally, I think Scalley is better off biding his time under Whittingham and I know I’m not alone. Fresno State is a place you can win, as DeBoer and Jeff Tedford have shown in the recent past, but the facilities there are lacking and renovations to Bulldog Stadium are badly needed.
If Fresno State did come to Scalley, it would absolutely be worth considering, but I think there are better ideas, such as staying put.
Q: “I’ve been very high on Utah basketball so far this season, but with the injuries, should we taper our expectations? Could this strong start turn into a nightmare later on this season without some of our best players?” -- @coreyc04
A: To reset the situation here, Bostyn Holt (ACL) is out for the season, while Gabe Madsen (undisclosed), Marco Anthony (ankle) and Dusan Mahorcic are out for varying amounts of time. Mahorcic suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury on Saturday night vs. BYU, and is out until January, Craig Smith told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday morning.
Madsen and Anthony are expected back at some point, but for now, Utah faces the prospect of playing at USC on Wednesday night with eight scholarship players available. More importantly, at least to me, is the fact that Utah faces the prospect of practicing with eight scholarship players.
Practicing with so few bodies makes it difficult to get things done, including going live, so Craig Smith and his coaching staff are going to have to get creative. Smith on Monday indicated to reporters that Madsen and Anthony are progressing, but not to the point where they are doing anything live, which all but ruled them out for Wednesday.
I don’t know what anyone’s expectations were two weeks ago, but this team currently has a pretty dire lack of depth, specifically up front where Mahorcic had made waves as a rim-to-rim guy with a big motor and a willingness to play physical underneath. His loss is significant.
If and when Madsen is ready to go, I expect him to step in as one of Smith’s first options off the bench. He can shoot the ball, just know that.
Q: “I’m sure I’m in the minority, but Cam Rising’s ability to go through his progressions and his propensity to squeeze passes into very tight windows concerns me. Also concerned about our secondary’s ability to cover Oregons’s talented receivers.” -- Emailer Richard
A: I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know every nuance of playing quarterback at this level, or any level for that matter, so I won’t judge Rising’s ability to go through his progressions, but I will say this.
From my vantage point up in the press box, there is at least one instance per game where Rising unleashes a “what are you doing?” throw. Normally, as Richard notes, that instance is Rising trying to fit a ball into a tight window between defenders.
That said, I don’t remember any of those instances potentially swinging a game, nor do I remember any of those instances even coming in the second half of a game, but they have definitely happened.
It’s not a total non-issue, but in a season where Rising currently ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 11 nationally in QBR, yes, it sort of is a total non-issue. Again, none of those instances have come in high-stakes spots with the game on the line, and I can’t sit here and rattle off the down and yardage for any of them.
As for the Utah secondary, I think that’s been a bit of a concern for a long time, simply because Utah’s secondary has been beset by injury and is now pretty thin beyond Clark Phillips III, Zemaiah Vaughn and Malone Mataele. Those three have played well enough lately to offer optimism in the group’s ability to deal with Oregon.
Of course, much of that will have to do with the defense’s ability to make Anthony Brown uncomfortable Friday night, but I digress.
Q: “I know you wintered in SLC last year, but did you get a chance to experience our fabulous inversion weather?” -- @OuterDarknezz
A: I don’t remember much bad inversion weather here last winter, but I was here for most of the 2019-20 winter upon arrival at The Trib, and I really wish someone had warned me about the inversion.
My third or fourth day here in Dec. 2019, I definitely remember going out for a run and being unable to breathe about a mile in. That’s how I learned about the inversion, my lungs being on fire. They should really offer a manual to new out-of-state residents about what to expect, led off with the inversion during the winter months.
As I look out my bedroom window right now, it is hazy and disgusting outside, and I’ve had a bit of a cough for a couple of days. For all the positives of living in Salt Lake City, the inversion is a big, fat negative.
Q: “What is your take on the interlocking UU logo (currently on the field) vs. the circle/feather logo? Do you have a preference for one? Is the University trying to quietly phase out the circle and feather logo?” -- @billyhesterman
A: Personally, I like the interlocking UU logo.
It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s straight to the point, I think most people know which school that logo belongs to without having to give it much thought.
All of that said, I’m sure the circle-feather logo offers nostalgia for a lot of people of a certain age. Personally, I see the circle-feather logo and I start thinking about Keith Van Horn, Rick Majerus, and teenage Josh really diving into college basketball many years ago.
Is the University of Utah trying to phase out the circle-feather logo? I don’t know, but with high schools, colleges and professional franchises steadily moving away from names and logos that may be deemed offensive, I wouldn’t blame Utah for doing the same.
It should be noted that the Ute Indian Tribe and the University have a memorandum of understanding, which gives the school permission to use the Ute name with the Tribe’s full support. For what it’s worth, there are educational and outreach elements as part of the memorandum of understanding, which expires in March 2025.