This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Now that Utah's spring camp is in the books, the countdown to meaningful action begins: T-minus three-and-a-half months.
Er make that one-and-a-half months.
Fall camp starts Aug. 4, but NCAA rule changes will give coaches unprecedented access to players who arrive for summer work in June. One of those players, Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson, will vie for the reins of the Ute offense this fall.
Then, in July, doctors will decide whether current starting quarterback Travis Wilson is fit for contact. If so, they'll determine if and when to conduct further tests on his damaged intracranial artery.
So, the U. may not sell any programs, and media access will be limited, but the so-called dead period is anything but.
With that in mind, let's have a look at what was revealed while the mountains thawed and what to expect as the mercury rises.
It's not a new offense, but … • When he wasn't correcting coverages or alignments, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham was correcting reporters.
It's not a new offense, he'd say. It's still a spread offense. You can ask about the offense's new elements, tweaks, or emphasis, but inquire about coordinator Dave Christensen's "new offense" and incur Whittingham's pigskin pedantry.
However, players spent a lot of time talking about it, and Christensen himself gave frequent updates on the status of its installation. To the casual observer, Utah seemed to use two tight ends less often than it did last season, and two backs quite a bit more.
Tempo was also stressed even more than it has been in recent years. Coaches used a 20-second play clock in crossover work and gave the offense a delay-of-game penalty when they didn't get the snap off.
But Whittingham is right, of course. Christensen does not bring wholesale change from the offense Brian Johnson and Dennis Erickson installed last spring, and while the Utes looked explosive at Saturday's spring game (734 total yards), they did as well in 2013 (797).
The old switcheroo • It wouldn't be a Utah spring camp without them:
Utah has a tradition of finding a new fit for guys at positions of excess supply. This spring, by a rough count, eight players plied a new trade, and that's not counting the musical chairs on the offensive line.
Rowe is billed as a possible all-conference cornerback. His ability to stick there this fall, though, hinges on whether coaches feel comfortable with a host of less-proven free safety candidates who include senior Tevin Carter, junior Charles Henderson and incoming freshmen Andre Godfrey, Monte Seabrook or Marcus Williams.
Other switches: senior Greg Reese from tight end to defensive end, redshirt freshman Filipo Mokofisi from defensive end to defensive tackle, redshirt freshman Clarence Smith from linebacker to defensive end, redshirt freshman McKay Murphy from defensive line to offensive line, redshirt freshman Micah Thomas from quarterback to wide receiver and sophomore Hipolito Corporan from cornerback to safety.
When twos become ones • Fourteen likely fall starters didn't play in the spring game.
The dearth of established players brought opportunity to younger players, and Whittingham singled out a few who took advantage:
• Redshirt freshman Salesi Uhatafe fought his way into the discussion for starting guard opposite injured senior Junior Salt.
• Sophomore wideout Dominique Hatfield saw action as a true freshman, and explosive plays this spring have him solidly positioned to duel inbound junior college transfer Kaelin Clay for a starting role.
• Sophomore defensive end Pita Taumoepenu is still raw, but his otherworldly speed and power may earn him reps on surefire passing downs.
• Junior Devontae Booker and redshirt freshman Troy McCormick would have likely gotten a chance without an injury to senior Lucky Radley, but they've made the most of the extra carries and feel like 1B and 1C to junior Bubba Poole's 1A.
What now? • First, they'll go home. May is, really, the only break these guys get all year.
Then in June and July the Utes will undergo summer conditioning. Starting this year, NCAA regulations allow coaches to be involved directly with players for eight hours per week, including two hours of film study. Whittingham says that's particularly valuable for freshmen and transfers of whom he expects between three and six to be key players in 2014.
Led by their captains, players will also arrange their own voluntary workouts. They are anything but slapdash affairs and are generally modeled on the no-pads work they do with coaches in spring.
Finally, in July, the Utes will get what they hope will be the final word on Wilson. All involved say they believe he'll be cleared for contact, but then what? Will he test from week to week in the season?
"We'll kind of figure out something after this next appointment," Wilson said Saturday. "Obviously it's something I'll have to check up here and there, but I don't think it's ever going to be a problem."
If he's right, it will be Wilson vs. Thompson with dress rehearsals throughout June and July.