Scrimmages are rarely perfect the first go-around for teams and such was the case for Utah after their first scrimmage of spring, however, there was much optimism from the coaching staff after practice and for good reason. There is more talent at the Ute’s disposal than they have ever had and not all of it has arrived yet either. The biggest takeaway from offensive coordinator Troy Taylor, defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley and head coach Kyle Whittingham is that guys are picking up quickly what is needed from them and building much needed depth for the grueling journey that is a Pac-12 schedule.
“It wasn’t perfect, lots of things to work on,” said Whittingham. “We had some substitution issues on offense, but when you look at it in its entirety the execution for the eighth practice we’ve had this offense in and the way the defense tackled and the amount of penalties, which were very few. Ball handling was good so I think it was a really good start. It was our first extensive live work of spring and about 85 plays, nobody got injured so that’s always a big plus.”
On the offensive side of the ball Taylor said he felt his guys were going at about 60% of what he hopes the tempo will be come fall and that the last 40% will come when everything feels second nature rather than having to think about what is supposed to happen.
“I think the tempo has been pretty good and the terminology has been good,” Taylor said. “They have learned it. We had a couple of missed assignments but that’s to be expected. You’ve got guys who are playing for the first time and are a little bit nervous and have a little anxiety but I thought for the most part they have picked up on things. They have been very hungry and I’m very satisfied with that.”
For Scalley and the defense, he couldn’t be happier with the energy they played with that seemingly seemed to stem from strong safety Chase Hansen and trickled down to the rest of the unit. “Tackling was good. I thought we tackled well, I thought we ran the ball well,” he said. “We gave up some assignments- we had some assignment issues we’ll watch and fix on film. Not enough takeaways.”
One noticeably different aspect of this particular scrimmage was that all of the quarterbacks were live and Whittingham was happy being able to evaluate them side by side by side in similar conditions to see how they react. “It was great seeing those guys in live situations where you can’t too often,” he said. “You’ve got to pick your spots because there is some risk involved obviously, but it gives you the best evaluation possible of those guys. We can see their escapability and what they can do when the play breaks down and how they can make something out of nothing.”
Taylor was pleased with how his position group has performed as a whole during spring saying most of all his quarterbacks have demonstrated they can be consistent out on the field. “Troy has been very consistent the whole time,” he said. “He’s been accurate, made good decisions, very poised and I love his attitude. Tyler has also been consistent. His athleticism is very impressive- he’s got a very bright future as well. I think they are both outstanding players. I feel like we can win with both of those guys and then Cooper has done a really great job. He hasn’t gotten a lot of practice reps but when he gets in he always plays well, he always makes good decisions.”
As Scalley explained, spring is all about building depth and he feels like the Utes are doing that on both sides of the ball right now. “Guys are getting better. It’s give and take,” he said. “Offense had success; we had some success- we’ve got to get better in the red zone with our twos. Short yardage situations- we need to clean those up- too many third downs given up, fourth downs given up. That’s got to be something we clean up now over halfway through spring ball. The goal coming into this scrimmage was run fast and tackle well. I thought we did that.”