Utah Utes football notebook: New scheme may explain offensive struggles
SALT LAKE CITY — A 7-0 outcome in Utah's Red-White game wasn't really expected.
With the defense restricted to rushing just four and dropping back seven, the offense was supposed to be the showcase Saturday — operating with no limitations.
"I thought we moved the football OK," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. "We just didn't score. We were moving it decently."
There's been a serious learning curve this spring with new offensive coordinator Norm Chow and the staff altering approximately 80 percent of last year's formations and the overall scheme. The Utes are doing a lot more under center.
In terms of installation, Whittingham said plenty of progress is being made.
"We got a lot done. We got just about everything in," he explained. "We're not executing everything at nearly the capacity that we need to. But they were exposed to a lot and that's what you want to do in spring — expose them to everything you've got."
It pays off in the fall, Whittingham continued, because you can pick and choose from what's in the storehouse when it comes to game planning.
"We'll be fine. I'm confident in that," said quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson. "We've got a lot of good players. We've got a good scheme. It's proven. It works. So we'll be ready to go."
Even more so, in fact, when starting quarterback Jordan Wynn is cleared to play again. In his absence, true freshman Tyler Shreve and sophomore Grif Robles have been taking the snaps.
Whittingham, thus, declined to make an assessment on the current state of the offense.
"Its tough to make a definitive call because we didn't have Jordan, who we expect to definitely run it with more proficiency than what we had this spring," Whittingham said. "But I saw some good things."
Johnson acknowledges that Wynn's return will help a lot.
So, too, will something else.
"You've just got to practice it, you've got to rep it," Johnson said. You'll be good at whatever you practice."
Johnson is sure Wynn can switch offenses successfully.
"Jordan's a smart guy. He can adapt and adjust to whatever we do," he said. "So I think we'll do some things that will help his skill set and put him in a position to be successful."
MIXING IT UP: The annual alumni flag football game included some interesting guests. Haloti Ngata of Oregon and the NFL's Baltimore Ravens participated, as did former BYU star Junior Mahe. Ex-Ute basketball standout Britton Johnsen also played in the game.
"They needed some guys to come out, and I just decided to come and play with them," Ngata said. "It was fun."
Johnsen accepted an offer to participate from former Oakland Raider John Madsen, who is helping him train.
HOMECOMINGS: Utah's past came back in force. The returnees included several current NFL players — Jordan Gross (Carolina Panthers), Robert Johnson (Tennessee Titans), Paul Kruger (Baltimore Ravens), Sione Pouha (New York Jets), Stevenson Sylvester (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Eric Weddle (San Diego Chargers).
"It's good to get back," Sylvester said. "It's good to dig my feet in on this turf again."
Weddle also enjoyed returning to Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"It's awesome, seeing all the alumni. Man, it's like we haven't been gone at all," Weddle said. "I'm excited to see the team and just hanging out. That's why I'm here."
The atmosphere, he acknowledged, had some extra synergy with Pac-12 signs, logos and T-shirts all around.
"It's a new beginning, a new start," Weddle said. "The future looks bright — for sure."
LOCKED OUT: The NFL's labor situation is obviously on the minds of those directly affected by it.
Ngata, who plans to stick around in Utah until its resolved, is confident a new agreement will be reached fairly soon.
"I think it'll happen," he said. "I think our nation without football will be a little crazy."
Weddle is also keeping a watchful eye on things. If a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, he'll become a free agent. If it doesn't happen, the safety will return to the San Diego Chargers as a restricted free agent.
"I love San Diego but you never know what goes on with the business side of it," Weddle said. "I'm excited to see what happens. Hopefully we can get a deal done."
In the meantime, he said he's enjoying time with his family and this trip to Utah to visit old friends.
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