I’ve seen a lot of improvement. They’re really good backs. That’s a deadly combination back there. —Utah offensive lineman Jackson Barton
SALT LAKE CITY — Armand Shyne said the only obstacle between him and the season he’s dreaming about is his own mind.
Back from an arm injury that forced him to redshirt his junior season, the California native said physically he feels great.
“I felt I was 100 percent,” Shyne said after Utah’s scrimmage on Friday afternoon. “(The most challenging aspect of being back is) just getting over that mental barrier. When I see situations I don’t like, I start acting a little soft or whatever. Once I get over that, I’ll be straight. I feel like that’s the only barrier I have right now.”
If anything is going to cure him of avoiding contact, it’s Utah’s defense.
“I’m sure when I do that, they’re going to hit me and make sure I know, ‘Stop doing that!’” he laughed. “Then I’ll be straight.”
Shyne is one of Utah’s most promising running backs, along with last year’s starter, Zack Moss. Together, they could give the Utes one of the most wicked ground games in the Pac-12.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement,” said offensive lineman Jackson Barton. “They’re really good backs. That’s a deadly combination back there.”
Moss said he’d like to get stronger this summer, maybe even a bit faster — both strengths for him in last season’s 1,173-yard performance that resulted in 10 touchdowns.
“I’ll do more work this summer, try to perfect speed and power,” he said. “That’s all I’m really going to do. You can never have too much power.”
Barton said he knows why Moss is focusing on something he already does better than many college running backs.
“For football, you never stay the same,” he said. “It’s either you’re improving, or you’re getting worse.”
Utah running backs coach Kiel McDonald said he feels good about where both Shyne and Moss are — as well as the team’s other backs.
“I feel like we’re in a good place,” he said after the scrimmage. “We’ve just got to clean up the little things and do that better than anybody else in the country. We made some plays, which was good to see. We just have to continue to get better every day.”
He said any time a player comes off an injury, there is an adjustment to the mental toughness required of football, but in Shyne’s case, he’s coming off two serious injuries (knee and arm).
“Anybody that comes back from an injury is going to need a little bit of time,” he said. “There might be a wall or some hurdles you got to get over. He’s just at that point. But after taking some shots getting hit, getting back up, getting hit, getting back up. Just being able to trust that you’re going to be able to get back into the game without having a serious injury. He’s moving around well, and he’s just got to get over that hump.” Moss had a few carries Friday that indicated he’s only getting better.
“He was explosive, has patience, power, everything that we expect from a starter at the University of Utah,” he said, adding he’s not surprised Moss said he’d focus on improving his power before fall camp. “What we teach is running through tackles here. We’re a physical outfit. That will just help him with that.”
Moss and Shyne said they’ll work hard to earn every minute they get this fall. Moss isn’t resting on last year’s accomplishments.
“I just want to be a more consistent player,” Moss said. “Whatever the offense allows me to do. I’m not really going to put any numbers on it now, but I just want to be the best I can be.”
And as for the offense as a whole, Moss believes it's better than last year’s offense at this point in spring camp.
“There were a lot of bright spots on the offense today,” Moss said after the scrimmage, “much more ahead of what we were last year.”