Despite what most believe was a successful spring camp, the Utah football team heads into the summer months with a bunch of unanswered questions.
Who will start at running back? How will Utah's defensive line hold up? Will the linebackers be able to keep up with opposing offenses this year? And those don't even begin to touch on the recruiting needs facing the program.
These are just a few of the many problems the Ute coaching staff must address before the season kicks off on August 29th. As we prepare for the long football-less grind of May, June, and July let's take a look at the five things that have to happen this offseason for the Utes to be successful this fall.
The first, and possibly the most important thing that Utah needs, is health. Guys need to get healthy. Badly. Spring ball scrimmages and the Red/White game were filled with backups thanks in part to injuries sustained by multiple players. Trevor Reilly, Brian Blechen, Reshawn Hooker, and many more starters or potential starters missed large amounts of time this spring and therefore lost out on opportunities to grow and develop. In order for Utah to begin to build their 2-deep at key positions they need guys, particularly starters, to get healthy. This will give the coaches a much better idea of what they have to work with when Utah State comes to town.
The second thing the Utes need is development. Quarterback, linebacker, many position groups on this team have a lot of potential but many of those same positions still clearly need increased levels of player development. The Utes need guys to take initiative this summer and hit the weight room, hit the practice field, and overall generate a desire within to make themselves better. Hopefully that desire is already there with these guys and they make it happen. We saw a few players have solid springs, guys like Uaea Masina, Stevie T, Eric Rowe, and the quarterback position as a whole to name just a few. These guys and the rest of the team now have to take advantage of the summer months and continue to develop before the start of fall camp.
The third thing Utah needs is a fine-tuned offensive and defensive identity for the upcoming season. Now that the coaches have had a chance to watch their guys play for 30 days they should have a pretty solid idea of what they have at their disposal. Summer should be time for the coaches to craft offensive and defensive scheme built around those players and the skills and strengths they believe they posses. Will the Utes be a blitz-heavy defense? Will they throw the ball 50+ times per game? These are the things that need to be decided now so when fall ball starts it's all about implementing those plans and getting them ready for game day.
The fourth thing I believe has to happen revolves around recruiting. The coaches need to get out and start making some major headway with talented prospects now while they have the time. Summer is the time when player/coach relationships should really strengthen. Along with that the coaches should begin to refine their "big board" and begin to zero in on those players they really feel like they want while limiting contact with lower-priority players. The Ute coaches also need to make those roster positions of need (linebacker, defensive line, defensive back, etc) a priority this summer so that they're not scrambling to pick up players at these spots late in the process.
The fifth and final thing I think needs to happen is a major refocus by everyone involved within the program. I'm not saying this hasn't already begun, because I believe it has. Last year the team missed a bowl game for the first time in ten years, there were rumors of a disconnected locker room, and the team's play on the field was so inconsistent and sub-par at times that even some of the fans began to lose interest in the season. Utah isn't the most talented team in the conference, not by a long shot, but they don't need to be in order to be successful. If the players and coaches are on the same page and everybody is invested and working for each other I believe they can achieve results that are better than their individual ceilings. If the team can come together this summer then I believe their output this fall could exceed even some of the most optimistic expectations.
5 Things That Have to Happen This Offseason
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