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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley is sacked by Arizona State linebacker DJ Calhoun during game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. Arizona State won the game, 30-10.
The identity is going to come once we, as an offense, really ask each other ‘Do we really want it?' And we’ll see who really wants it and then we’ll go from there. —Tyler Huntley

SALT LAKE CITY — A “lack of identity on offense” may lead to some tweaking by the Utah Utes. They’re reeling after a 30-10 loss to Arizona State last Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

“Right now we’re still searching for who we are and it is concerning seven games in,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “You say, ‘How can that be?’ And I’m asking the same question. We've got to figure out what we do best and hitch our wagon to that and go in that direction.”

Whittingham noted that in the past, even though their numbers weren’t great, the Utes have been a “physical, run the ball down your throat with some play-action football team.”

Under new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor, Utah’s offense has been sluggish. The Utes (4-3, 1-3) enter Saturday’s game at Oregon (4-4, 1-4) ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in total offense (407.7 ypg) and 10th in scoring (28.1 ppg). They’re 12th in third-down conversions (33.3 percent).

Continuity may be an issue. Starting quarterback Tyler Huntley missed 2 1/2 games with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Troy Williams.

Huntley said it took a toll on the offense.

“That’s two different quarterbacks in and it kind of is a different rhythm as an offense and it’s hard to do that just in practice when, you know, it’s not full rush coming at the whole offense with a different play caller back there,” Huntley said. “So it’s two different feels and we’ve just got to work through it.”

As for the topic at hand, Huntley is holding out hope.

“The identity is going to come once we, as an offense, really ask each other ‘Do we really want it?'” Huntley said. “And we’ll see who really wants it and then we’ll go from there.”

Center Lo Falemaka is confident things will get fixed. He said quite a few people have asked him about the offense’s lack of identity.

“I’m just telling them it hurts to hear that,” Falemaka said. “But I definitely think we should be a powerhouse running offense.”

Utah ran for just 110 yards in the loss at Arizona State. The Utes are averaging 154.7 yards per game on the ground, seventh-best in the Pac-12. They’re sixth in passing with 253 yards and 10th in pass efficiency with a 128.88 rating.

In an effort to turn things around, Whittingham acknowledged “you may see some changes this week.”

A topic of discussion involves moving Taylor up to the box instead of having him on the field. Currently, tight end coach Freddie Whittingham is the only full-time offensive assistant not on the field during games.

“It’s typically been one full-time guy up in the box on each side of the ball, most years, and that’s what we have this year,” said Kyle Whittingham. “We may make some modifications this week with that. But, so far, it’s not been out of the ordinary.”

However, it doesn’t exactly match the head coach’s basic philosophy.

“Defensive coordinators, in general, should be down on the field,” he said. “Offensive coordinators, in general, are best served up in the box.”

Whittingham explained that defensive coordinators are in a more reactionary position that involves getting personnel in and out. That means more of a time crunch, he said, and any lag in communication could create problems.

As for the offensive coordinators, Whittingham said having them in the box allows for a better perspective of the field. They can see more of what’s going on and a clear picture of coverages and pressures and where they’re coming from.

Thus, in an ideal world, Whittingham thinks defensive coordinators should be on the field and offensive coordinators up top.

“But there’s plenty of people that have been successful doing it otherwise,” he said.

Whittingham generally allows coordinators, if they have a strong preference, to choose their spots.

“For the most part,” he said. “There may be a time when I say ‘No, this is how we’re going to do it.’”


Utah (4-3, 1-3) at Oregon (4-4, 1-4)

Autzen Stadium, Eugene

Saturday, 3:45 p.m. (MT)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: ESPN 700AM

Twitter: @DirkFacer