View from the Booth: U.'s sports teams going through changes
SALT LAKE CITY — Generally, April tends to be a slow time in the world of big-time college athletics, but that hasn't been the case at the University of Utah this spring. It's been a changing of the guard in both football and basketball. Kyle Whittingham's crew is making major changes on the offensive side of the football — without their best quarterback — and Utah basketball has added its 15th head coach in school history, trying to regain the edge that made the Utes one of the nation's elite programs just a decade ago.
But let's start with football.
Saturday, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in the annual Red and White spring football game, we will see just how far the Utes have come in their offensive "Extreme Makeover." What was clear down the stretch of last season and into the offseason was that Whittingham was not happy with his team's offensive philosophy and production. I think he embraced the spread offense because of the success Utah had with it under Urban Meyer, but he never struck me as a guy that was in love with the scheme.
Whittingham is very old school in what he coaches and preaches to his team. So it came as little surprise to me that he would make a change. And, if you are going to overhaul your offense, why not bring in a guy that is widely considered one of the best offensive minds in all of college football? That's exactly what he did in hiring Norm Chow away from UCLA.
As is the case with any change in philosophy, progress has been slow and hit and miss. Chow is moving Utah away from its spread and back to a more traditional "pro style" offense. I've spoken to quarterback Jordan Wynn a couple of times this spring and he seems to be on the same page as his new offensive guru, but because of offseason shoulder surgery he hasn't been able to fully participate in spring practice. On a side note, both Wynn and Utah doctors have told me that the shoulder is progressing well and he should be on track to begin throwing sometime in late May. Wynn's shoulder injury has left the quarterbacking responsibilities to freshman Tyler Shreve and sophomore Griff Robles. There is no denying the athletic ability and potential of Shreve, but he's been up and down in his progress this spring. Robles has some experience, but the system is new to him as well. Saturday's game should be an interesting test for both. Right now it's fair to say that the defense is ahead of the offense.
Now a quick thought or two on Utah basketball and head coach Larry Krystkowiak. I had a chance to sit down and visit with Utah's newest bench boss the other day and came away impressed. What I liked most during my visit was that Krystkowiak understands that there are no shortcuts or quick fixes. He has a good grasp of the situation he's in with personnel and understands what it will take to make Utah a contender in the Pac-12. I would simply caution Ute fans to give Coach Krystkowiak and his staff time to rebuild.
I will talk to you Saturday from the Red and White Spring Game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and will be joined by Frank Dolce and Sharieff Shah on the call. Our coverage starts at 12:30 with kickoff at 1:00 on ESPN 700.
Bill Riley can be heard as the radio voice of the University of Utah on game days and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill and Spence Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.
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