SALT LAKE CITY — Utah opened its 15th spring camp under head coach Kyle Whittingham on Monday and the boss said things went all right.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us in some spots. The offensive line has some holes to fill and linebacker and a couple of other areas,” Whittingham said. “But a good start today, a lot of energy and enthusiasm which is always the case on day one.” Whttingham added that they’ll get a lot better assessment when the pads are on later in camp.
“But so far, so good,” he said.
Quarterback Tyler Huntley agreed with Whittingham’s viewpoint.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on,” Huntley said. “It’s a new offense and we’re still trying to get it down pat.”
New terminology and new schemes are part of the workload this spring. Huntley, though, said he’s comfortable with new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s plans and thinks the team can definitely adapt to the changes.
Whittingham is also hopeful the transition will be fairly seamless.
“There is a learning curve but I thought, based on what we saw today, it was a good start,” he said. “There are several more installs to come as spring wears on.”
The biggest thing, Whittingham acknowledged, is getting the terminology down and meeting Ludwig’s expectations. A lot of the route structures and the run plays are similar.
“I think it’s going to go great and that’s my job to make it great and the players have really taken to it,” Ludwig said. “We’re running a lot of the same plays. They may have a little different terminology to it, but we’re trying to combine some things that we’ve done offensively in the last couple years at different places with what the Utes have done in the last couple of years.”
Ludwig explained that the plan is to maximize the abilities and skill sets of the players — making sure that the system fits them.
“It’s not about us,” Ludwig said. “It’s about the players.”
QUICK LOOK: Linebacker Manny Bowen’s first practice with Utah was cut short by a class. The graduate transfer from Penn State had to cut out early on the only Monday session of camp.
“So he was only here for a limited time,” Whittingham said. “But based on what we’ve seen in the winter conditioning and just his physical profile with his ability to jump and lift and agility-wise, it’s all very good.”
DONA-GONE: Senior linebacker Donavan Thompson, who started three games and finished with 29 tackles last season, is not with the team at this point. Whittingham said it’s doubtful that he’ll be back, although he wouldn’t say the door is completely closed for the former Miami prep star.
“We’ll miss Donavan. We wish he would have stayed and he still may, I don’t want to count him out completely,” Whittingham said. “But it wasn’t ideal when he made the decision to step away. We’ll see what happens.”
SWITCHING SPOTS: A position change of note is defensive back Julian Blackmon making the move from cornerback to safety.
“It wasn’t a hard choice for me at all,” said Blackmon, who approached cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah about making the switch following the graduation of starting safeties Corrion Ballard and Marquise Blair.
“It worked out the way I wanted it to,” Blackmon added.
The senior is confident he’ll be really good at safety because he’s a playmaker.
Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley, who coaches the safeties, also likes the move.
“Julian’s just got great range, great ball skills,” Scalley said. “So it’s kind of one of those Chase Hansen deals where it was good for Chase, it was good for the defense. Same thing with Julian. It’s good for Julian, good for the defense.”11 comments on this story
EXTRA POINTS: Two more practices are scheduled before spring break. The public is invited to attend outdoor sessions on Tuesday and Thursday from 3 to 4:45 p.m. at the Eccles Practice Fields . . . Five Utes have had shoulder surgeries since the season ended. The good news, Whittingham explained, is all of those players will be healed up and ready for summer conditioning . . . Whittingham said that quarterback Cameron Rising, a transfer from Texas, can really throw it . . . The Red-White Game at Rice-Eccles Stadium is set for Saturday, April 13 at 11 a.m.