Utah football: Utes are eager to pick up the pace offensively

Published: Sunday, April 13 2014 11:55 p.m. MDT

Utah quarterback Travis Wilson hands off to Devontae Booker during a University of Utah football scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to the tempo of Utah’s offense, head coach Kyle Whittingham said the sense of urgency to get the ball snapped is not nearly what it needs to be.

“It’s almost panic time for that because we’re down to three practices and we still don’t grasp exactly what we’re after in that regard,” he explained after Saturday’s scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The most glaring issue on offense, Whittingham added, will continually be hammered throughout the balance of spring ball and all the way through fall camp. While it’s “so far, so good” for some things, tempo isn’t one of them.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Whittingham said. “We’re not playing nearly fast enough.”

Whittingham describes the current situation as more of a “no-huddle” rather than an “up-tempo” offense.

New offensive coordinator Dave Christensen has similar concerns.

“Our tempo has not come close to what it needs to be and so we’ve got to get that point across,” he said. “Some of that comes from learning and some of that comes from coaching. We’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to be more demanding that we line up and snap the football.”

The players understand what needs to be done.

“Obviously the offense is different than last year, but the one thing is we’ve just got to make sure we push the tempo more and get the ball snapped a little bit faster,” said quarterback Travis Wilson.

The junior, who has maintained the top spot on the depth chart throughout camp while coming back from an intracranial artery injury, enters the final three sessions of spring ball with definite goals in mind.

“Just to make sure than I’m doing whatever I can to help this team and help get myself better,” Wilson said. “I know I had a few shaky games last year, so that’s just something that I’m trying to correct this spring and make sure I’m smarter with the football.”

Wilson, who at this point has only been cleared for non-contact drills, insists that all is well this spring.

“I feel perfect. My body feels healthy,” he said. “I’ve definitely got to gain a couple of more pounds, but other than that I feel really good.”

Although the 6-foot-7 Wilson is significantly lighter than last year’s playing weight of 240, he’s happy with the progress being made in the weight room.

Whittingham said it’s very apparent when Wilson gets out of the pocket that he’s a lot faster and quicker than last season. The coach also likes Wilson’s decision-making in camp, noting that he’s putting the ball in some good spots.

“Obviously Travis has played fairly well for us,” Christensen said. “We’ll continue to still have competition, but I think that he has certainly done a nice job so far.”

Wilson, meanwhile, is pleased with how things are going under Christensen.

“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from him and he’s doing a great job of teaching me and being a good coach,” Wilson said. “I’m happy to have him here.”

Christensen is still in the midst of evaluating what he calls a “good competition” at quarterback. On a depth chart released last week, redshirt freshman Conner Manning had moved ahead of junior Adam Schulz for the backup spot behind Wilson.

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