The Runner Sports

Utes Take Field For The First Open Scrimmage Of The Spring

Yesterday, the University of Utah football team hosted their first open scrimmage of the spring schedule. Utes players suited up for spectators to watch a game-type scenario for the first time since they wrapped up their disappointing 2012 campaign. That 2012 season has left a bad taste in most Utes fans mouths and also tapered expectations a bit for the upcoming season, something I would say is necessary and the current reality in the PAC-12 conference.

Nearly all Ute fans are familiar with everything that transpired last year to culminate in the ultimate disappointment and utter failure of the team. Jordan Wynn was supposedly fully healthy and back to his former self with added bulk. The Wolfman was returning and primed for a huge senior season after his unexpected breakout junior year. One of the greatest defenders to ever done the crimson was wreaking havoc on the defensive line. Ute fans were feeling pretty good about the lofty prospect of a challenging USC to a Pac-12 south division title, and multiple national media outlets were pretty high on that notion as well. Pre-season expectations were at an all-time high, something that seems to be a yearly ritual now.

Then the Utah State game happened; enter dumpster fire of a season. The Utes struggled for the remainder of the season and battled through injuries, bone headed mistakes, lack of an offense identity and a myriad of other problems on the way to a 5-7 record, their first losing record in nine seasons. Negativity and apathy returned to a segment of fans of the program but what makes things like this spring scrimmage so great is that it gives you an opportunity to put the past year behind you and start looking forward to the hopeful progress of the new team. That being said here are my observations and notes from yesterday’s scrimmage for all those who weren’t able to attend and see the team first hand. Obviously it is simply a vanilla spring scrimmage and conclusions shouldn’t be drawn from it, but some observations never hurt.

Travis Wilson

Quarterbacks

                Thankfully it is still spring and a meaningless scrimmage otherwise there would be some major concerns with Wilson’s play. I might go as far to say he was the least impressive of the Quarterback trio on the day. The offense appeared to be running at slower pace with Travis at the helm rather than when Cox or Schulz were running the show, whether that was intended by play call or not, I am unsure. He threw two interceptions early, one an awful pass that Charles Henderson picked off, and the other a tipped ball that was forced into a tight window (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Fortunately as the scrimmage went on Wilson picked it up and finished with an okay 146 yards and a touchdown, completing 11 out of his 25 passes. All this can probably be attributed to shaking off the spring rust.

Schulz looked pretty nice in the early goings throwing crisp passes and running an up-tempo offense, but started to falter a bit as the scrimmage went on.  He finished the day with two touchdown passes and 175 yards passing. Brandon Cox had 66 passing yard on the day and never fully looked comfortable in the pocket, which is to be expected from a freshman Quarterback. He displayed a propensity to tuck the ball and take off when he sensed a bit of pressure.

Running Backs

                James Poole led the Utes in rushing for the day racking up 68 yards and 3 touchdowns. One of his touchdown runs in particular stood out when he took it up the gut and ran through a few tackles, eventually bouncing it outside and converting a tough run into a touchdown. Junior, Lucky Radley ran for 47 yards on the day and looked fast and decisive making his cuts to the hole and demonstrated some nice burst, along with showcasing his pass catching ability. He notched both a rushing touchdown and a receiving. Radley really stood out to me and left a solid impression. Karl Williams picked up where he left off last year delivering some punishing blows on the carries he received.

dresWide Receivers/Tight Ends

                Hands down the standout of this group was none other than Dres Anderson. He looked impressive all day, flashing his patented speed and coming up with big yards after the catch. It is very encouraging to see Dres living up to his potential a bit even if it is only the spring. The other receivers looked solid and Kenneth Scott posted the second best numbers on the day with 4 catches for 60 yards. Tight end Jake Murphy only pulled in two balls on the day, one of which went for a touchdown. Westlee Tonga had a beautiful one handed snag when a pass directed his way was slightly off target. It’ll be interesting to see the tight ends involvement in Dennis Erickson’s offense as we get closer to opening kickoff as they were historically underutilized in the offenses he ran at ASU.

Rest of the team

Coaches have praised the offensive line as being one of the strengths of the team, something that must hold true in order for the team to be successful this year. Nothing they did in the scrimmage indicated to me that is true, but they just need time to gel and work with each other and eventually they will hit their stride. The defensive line got good push for most of the scrimmage and the QBs were pressured a bit. Coverage was solid on the day, intercepting four passes total. Tyrone Morris-Edwards came down with one interception and another went to newly converted defensive back Charles Henderson. At least he didn’t muff that interception. Special teams have been an Achilles heel of the team since joining the Pac-12, the Colorado game stands out in particular. Kicking was average on the day but unfortunately neither kicked separated themselves from the other. Tom Hackett picked up where Sellwood left off and looked good on most his punts, having nice placement inside the 20 on several. He doesn’t have the booming leg of Sellwood but is a very accurate punter.  Overall, it was great to see the Utes in Rice-Eccles once again after the long winter months. The team was full of energy and was genuinely excited to be out there in front of some fans. It will be a very intriguing and interesting season this year and this is just the start. Ute fans should be excited at the possibility of returning to a bowl game and laying the foundation with Travis Wilson to make a push in the Pac-12 south again in years to come.

 

Image Sources:

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Author: Zach Sterbens