College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Utah, who began spring practice on Tuesday.
What are some of the issues Utah has to figure out before moving to the Pac-12?
When you look at teams going through transition this spring, most are referring to a quarterback change or having to deal with new coaching staff members. At Utah, "transition" is less about who's under center and more about a move to a whole different conference.
"It is a new era for Utah football and you can sense it," head coach Kyle Willingham told reporters after the Utes' first practice. "There is a lot of excitement about it and new challenges."
The move to a new league will come complete with a new offense thanks to distinguished alum and new offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Though he ran the Pistol offense while at UCLA with limited success, Chow is known best for producing high scoring offenses with top flight pro-style quarterbacks (see Palmer, Carson at USC and Rivers, Phillip at N.C. State). Last season's starter Jordan Wynn will miss spring practice after undergoing shoulder surgery, which leaves all the reps to true freshman Tyler Shreve and sophomore Griff Robles. While spring offers the Utes a chance to see what the quarterback of the future looks like, they won't be able to see what the quarterback for next season looks like after Chow all but confirmed that Wynn would start in the fall.
"I told Jordan I'd go to the Heisman one more time and then I'll retire," he told The Salt Lake Tribune.
The backfield is also an area of concern. The team loses two of their leading rushers from last season in Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata. Don't be surprised if early enrollee Harvey Langi makes a big push for playing time after several top programs recruited the big back out of high school. Paving the way in the new pro-style attack will be Boo Anderson, who moves from linebacker to fullback. Three of the five starters on the offensive line are back but there will be battles at both guard spots the Utes will need to lock down before all is said and done.
Oh and one of the best names in college football, wide receiver Shaky Smithson, departs after being a threat in the passing game and special teams. While it might seem like there's a lot of moving parts on offense, there are a few things Willingham doesn't have to worry about. Linebackers Matt Martinez and Chaz Walker return and safety Brian Belchen has bulked up a bit after moving to SAM linebacker. Not a surprise but Willingham thanks Star Lotulelei will be a star at defensive tackle and David Kruger and Derrick Shelby are returning starters at defensive end.
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Are there a few things the Utes want to get worked out? Yes on both sides of the ball. But that's what spring football is all about, working out the kinks. The coaching staff believes that there's plenty of talent to compete week in and week out in a new conference and there is enough proven talent that will suit up this spring to back that up.
"They've played in big games against the Alabama's and teams so that will be nothing different," Chow told the Tribune. "The challenge will be the week to week competition in the Pac-12. That is different but we'll be ready."
Plenty of things to figure out beforehand though.