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3 Things Utah, BYU Must Figure Out In Spring Football

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (11) is sacked by Utah Utes defensive tackle Pita Tonga (49) as BYU and Utah play at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Salt Lake City, Utah – Some may say it’s too early to begin analyzing the Utah Utes and BYU Cougars football programs, but not at Rivals Podcast, hosted by Scott Mitchell, former Ute, and Jason Buck, former Cougar. There are striking similarities between the teams when it comes to spring football goals.

Mitchell, a former quarterback, and Buck, a former defensive end, listed the things each team needs to figure out by the beginning of the regular season.

Utes Look To Build On Strong 2018

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham just signed a two-year contract extension. On a recent episode of Rivals Podcast, Buck said this means only good things for the Utes. Some of the many benefits he mentioned include confidence among the coaching staff, team chemistry and recruiting power.

Whittingham led the Utes to the Pac-12 championship in the 2018 season. They have most of that team intact for 2019, which is a huge advantage. Still, there are still some things that need to be addressed in spring football.

1. Develop Attitude, Leadership and Ownership

“You have to have a team who comes out of spring ball saying we’re going to win it all,” said Buck. It has to be an attitude that is at the forefront of the entire team’s mind.

He mentioned you have to set the tone right now, the first regular season game will be too late.

2. Flip The Mindset

Mitchell warned that the Utes will no longer be able to have the “chip on your shoulder, underdog attitude” that Whittingham uses so often.

The team will have a target on its back because it is very possible that they will be  picked to win the Pac-12 South.

“They have to get comfortable being the better team,” said Mitchell

3. Identify Leaders

Departing senior Chase Hansen is the most notable player the Utes lost to graduation. He was a clear leader in the locker room.

Buck predicted the Utes have the potential to “find magic” if they have a couple of big leaders step up, especially on defense, and drive the team.

Mitchell admitted he is not sure who will step up as a defensive player and lead the way.

“Spring ball is going to tell that story, Scott … We will know by the end of spring ball,” assured Buck.


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Cougars Must Keep Climbing

Scott predicted that despite BYU’s tough schedule they will have a better season than they did in 2018. They ended the season with a 7-6 record.

“They have some winnable games early on,” said Mitchell, “I think USC is one of those winnable games.”

Having their first opening game against the Utes favors the Cougars in the rivalry game, agreed Buck and Mitchell.

“That is absolutely the best shot they have at beating Utah,” Buck said.

Here are the things Kalani Sitake’s Cougars need to figure out in spring football.

1. Find The Stars

Much like Utah, the Cougars need to find their leaders on offense and defense.

Buck said some guys are going to have to step up and shine if they want to find success.

2. Own Independence 

“They don’t really know who they are in independence,” said Mitchell of the Cougars, who have been an independent football program since 2011.

The team leaders need to be the ones to step up and say they are tired of the mediocrity because this independence thing is not going anywhere according to Mitchell.

It starts much before spring football but by the end of spring football a team must be able to answer the question, “Who are we,” said Mitchell.

“It has to be the players taking ownership of the situation, it is never the coach,” said Mitchell.

The Cougars need to decide that they will not be complacent as an independence football program.

3. Adaptation

“The player who needed spring football more than anyone was Zach Wilson,” said Mitchell.

Wilson, who had a stellar end to the season under center for BYU, underwent shoulder surgery in January to fix a “minor injury” that has reportedly plagued him since high school.

There is always an adaptation that needs to be made, according to Mitchell. This is something the offense will have to adapt to.

The Utes will head to Provo to take on Cougars for the first game of the regular season on August 29.

Subscribe to Rivals Podcast on the KSL Sports app.

Listen to the full episode below.

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