Utah Utes football: Kyle Whittingham says spring practice is 'all about us'
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has made it clear. When the Utes open spring practice today, they won't be focusing on upcoming membership in the Pac-12. Nor, he added, will anything else detour their attention.
"Spring ball is all about us," Whittingham said. "We're not concerned with other teams or what other teams are doing schematically."
In the past, however, Utah did dedicate some time to defending Air Force's triple-option attack.
Switching conferences has changed all that.
"With that no longer in the picture for us, it's all about getting our offense installed and becoming a more fundamentally, technique-sound football team at all positions," Whittingham said. "That is really what the main thrust of spring is, fundamentals and technique and making sure that we're improving — that each player individually is improving."
The quest to get better begins with practice this afternoon. It's the first of 15 spring sessions.
"We've got three or four things that are the most pressing issues," Whittingham said before reeling off a list of things to get done.
Priority No. 1, he explained, is getting newly hired offensive coordinator Norm Chow's "new wrinkles" in the offense installed. That includes getting all the repetitions needed to pick up the new concepts and such in the multiple offensive scheme.
Other areas of immediate concern for Whittingham include establishing a depth chart at running back and in the secondary.
"We have a lot of new faces there, so we've got to get that defined," Whittingham said.
At running back, the Utes must replace co-starters Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide, as well as Sausan Shakerin.
Converted wide receiver Luke Matthews opens spring on top of the depth chart. Highly touted junior college transfer John White and former Bingham High standout Harvey Langi are also considered frontrunners. Thretton Palamo and Beau Burton are also in the mix.
"We've got a whole new look at running back," Whittingham said. "So getting the running back depth chart established will be a focal point."
Same goes for the secondary, where the Utes are depleted of starters. Cornerbacks Brandon Burton (NFL) and Lamar Chapman (graduation) are gone. So, too, are safeties Justin Taplin-Ross (graduation) and Brian Blechen (moved to linebacker).
"That's going to be the main focal point on defense — to get the secondary depth chart and people positioned where we need them to be," Whittingham said.
The projected spring depth chart lists Ryan Lacy and Conroy Black as the starting cornerbacks with Damian Payne and Michael Walker in the safety spots.
Another position of intrigue is quarterback. With projected starter Jordan Wynn sidelined after shoulder surgery, sophomore Griff Robles and freshman Tyler Shreve are going to get a lot of work this spring.
"It's not ideal, but it is what it is. We've got to deal with it," Whittingham said. "The bright side is Griff Robles and Tyler Shreve will get all the reps and we expect them both to make a lot of progress this spring and take advantage of the opportunity they're getting."
Wynn, meanwhile, will be close at hand.
"Jordan is going to be at every practice. He'll be able to do everything but throw the football. We'll be able to put him in some of the run drills," Whittingham said. "So he's going to be able to get a lot of reps at certain things. But, obviously, not being able to throw is the big downside. But we'll just have to deal with it."
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