Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Utah starts spring with new offense
By Ted Miller
Utah begins spring practices Tuesday, and most of the focus will be on the offense, with new 25-year-old coordinator Brian Johnson installing his scheme and quarterback Jordan Wynn returning from injury.
Some are theorizing Johnson will bring back many spread elements after a year with Norm Chow's pro-style scheme, so it will be a bit of a challenge for the media to figure out specific and identifiable tweaks that represent Johnson's renovation.
Don't expect anything radical, particularly with Wynn being asked to run the football.
Here are the big issues to be addressed before the spring game on April 21.
- Who replaces Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen at the offensive tackle spots? Bergstrom was first-team All-Pac-12, and Cullen was second-team. Further, Wynn and his shoulders need to be protected, so this is a top priority. The pre-spring depth chart has Percy Taumoelau No. 1 at left tackle and Daniel Nielson at right tackle, but an influx of four JC transfers this fall could lead to some shuffling on the offensive line, even with three interior starters returning.
- The defense should be potent, but it has some key guys to replace: End Derrick Shelby, cornerback Conroy Black, and linebackers Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez need to be replaced. Shelby led the team in tackles for a loss, and tied for the lead in sacks. Black led the Utes in interceptions, and Walker and Martinez were the top two tacklers in 2011, so these are significant holes. The pre-spring depth chart has Joe Kruger moving from right end to Shelby's left end spot, with Nate Fakahafua stepping in on the right side. Dave Fagergren and Victor Spikes are competing for Martinez' rover linebacker spot, while V.J. Fehoko steps in at Walker's spot at middle linebacker.
- Who will back up Wynn? Wynn, if healthy, is the Utes' best option at quarterback, but health has been his main issue, and that makes the backup job even more important. Based on the spring depth chart, which doesn't list Jon Hays, who started nine games last season after Wynn got hurt, it will fall to one of the two true freshmen on hand this spring: Travis Wilson or Chase Hansen.
A couple links: Four keys for Utah this spring. And here's a look at the offense.