Utes set to kick off spring football

Published: Monday, March 18 2013 7:15 p.m. MDT

Utah quarterback Travis Wilson (7) is chased out of the pocket by Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers (2) during the NCAA Football Pac-12 game between Utah University and Arizona University at Rice-Eccles Stadium , Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — Spring football kicks off at the University of Utah this week. Things get started Tuesday and conclude with the annual Red-White Game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, April 20.

After having a nine-year bowl streak come to an end last season, the Utes (5-7 in 2012) are eager to get back on the field.

“It’s been a different type of offseason without postseason play,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “But we felt like we maximized that time as well as we could have in the weight room and with the conditioning part of it.”

Now comes some on-field work. And as usual, Whittingham noted that the main emphasis of spring ball is “to make every player better fundamentally and technically at what they’re doing.”

Utah’s offense, as a whole, is seeking similar traits as new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson introduces some new aspects to the scheme.

“Minor tweaks, I guess, is how you can define it,” said Whittingham, who noted that Erickson has also streamlined and simplified some things.

The Utes are committed to a spread attack with an up-tempo approach and much more no huddle.

“You’ll see things that we’ve been doing with just a few additions,” Whittingham said. “There’s less change than what we hung on to.”

Even so, Whittingham acknowledged Erickson’s alterations to the scheme will need to be implemented and practiced this spring.

Utah ranked 11th in the Pac-12 and 105th nationally with 324.42 yards per game last season.

“I think in order to be more productive on offense it certainly helps to be able to run more plays,” Whittingham said. “The way you do that is with a little more up-tempo.”

Getting up to speed with young players in the program is also a focal point of spring ball. Whittingham noted that the staff is eager to learn more about their capabilities.

Several projected contributors, however, won’t be in the mix until summer conditioning and fall camp — meaning some position battles won’t be resolved in spring ball.

Spots on the depth chart, though, will be contested in the 15 scheduled practices. Sessions include two scrimmages and the spring game.

A position-by-position look at camp:

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACKS: Sophomore Travis Wilson headlines a group of four quarterbacks in spring camp. He’ll be joined by sophomore Adam Schulz, freshman Brandon Cox and walk-on Logan Bateman. High school signee Connor Manning won’t join the team until summer.

RUNNING BACKS: Senior Kelvin York is the frontrunner in a pool of competitors that includes sophomore James Poole, junior Lucky Radley and senior Karl Williams. Whittingham noted that Poole has made a lot of progress and is bigger and stronger. He praised Radley’s work ethic and said Williams has also done a nice job.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Despite taking a big graduation hit, Whittingham said the Utes have a lot of guys they like coming back at receiver. The cast includes junior Kenneth Scott, junior Dres Anderson, senior Anthony Denham and junior Quinton Pedroza. Redshirt freshmen Delshawn McClellon and Brian Allen are other players to watch.

TIGHT ENDS: Whittingham said that junior Jake Murphy has “positioned himself for a big year.” So, too, has senior Westlee Tonga. Mid-year junior college transfer Greg Reese and true freshman Harrison Handley of Alta are also in the mix.

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