Utah will have two goals Saturday morning at Rice-Eccles Stadium: to give the fans a bit of a show of next year's team and to give those who haven't yet proved themselves a chance to do so.
Utah's team has more new parts than in the past few seasons, with a nearly wholesale replacement job in the secondary and offensive line. With added uncertainty at quarterback, receiver and other key offensive roles as well as injuries hampering defensive line, tight end and running back, there's a lot of new faces to learn. With somewhat vanilla schemes typical of spring games, Whittingham said he's expecting clean execution from even the least seasoned.
Spring doesn't have much make-or-break weight to it, but it's worth noting that some have surged. Devonta'e Henry-Cole has made himself at least even with fellow Floridian Zack Moss at running back, adding tackle- shedding power to his speed. Defensive end Bradlee Anae has earned praise nearly every day from Whittingham, as has junior college transfer Corrion Ballard at safety.
Cornerback Casey Hughes, who has struggled with injury for years, increasingly has been seen as the leader at his position, replacing a bevy of talented and outspoken seniors. While he had a tough opening to Tuesday's scrimmage, allowing a touchdown pass on the first drive, he felt the secondary showed adequate ability to recover from its early mistake.
"After that, we knew we had to tighten up and make plays," he said. "I've just been waiting for my time. I knew in previous years I wasn't the man that was needed, but now I feel like I can step up."
The spring game by itself won't be a resounding case for one player or another. But it can make a strong statement if it caps a strong spring.
That might be the case for either Troy Williams or Tyler Huntley, the two top candidates vying to be starting quarterback under new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. Williams arguably has been the more composed of the two, leading scoring drives to start each of the live scrimmages and mostly staying in the pocket to deliver throws. But Utah's coaches also have been excited by Huntley, who has the best escapability of the quarterbacks and can improvise when plays break down.
Even the quarterbacks aren't really sure where they stand in the competition going into the spring finale.
"I try to not get too caught up in that," Williams said. "I just try to better myself every day."
Utah readies for Red-White game
The Utes will conclude the public sessions of spring practices with the annual spring game. The scrimmage will have four 10-minute quarters with a running clock in the second half. There will be two teams: the Red team coached by Troy Taylor and the White team coached by Kiel McDonald. Quarterbacks will wear non-contact jerseys. The offensive line will play for both teams, wearing black jerseys.
6 a.m. • Parking lot open and tailgate open
9 a.m. • MUSS game
10 a.m. • Alumni game
11 a.m. • Red-White scrimmage