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Five Important Questions To Be Answered During Utah Spring Football

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham and players celebrate their 35-7 win over the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah football will begin spring practice on Monday, March 15 and have a lot of questions that will need to be answered before the season.

Although, none of the questions will likely be answered during Utah spring football, it will be critical to get the young players experience going into fall camp.

Former Utes quarterback Drew Lisk joined the Crimson Corner podcast to preview spring football as he enters his first season post-playing career.

#1 The Utah Quarterback Depth During Spring Football

Just like the 2020 season, Utah will have another quarterback battle but with more talented signal callers and a lot more depth. Cam Rising beat out Jake Bentley and Drew Lisk in fall camp for the starting job before suffering a season ending shoulder injury in the opener against USC. Bentley played all but the second half of the season finale against Washington State before Drew Lisk led Utah to a comeback win over the Cougars.

Bentley transferred to South Alabama and Lisk retired. That didn’t stop Utah from going into the portal and getting two big time quarterbacks. Texas transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson and four-year Baylor starter Charlie Brewer. The Utes also signed four-star recruit Peter Costelli, who enrolled early in the program.

“I’ll start by saying that even though Cam is hurt, he’s still going to be extremely helpful to everyone in there,” Lisk said. “Even throughout the season after he was injured, he was always in the meetings and is just a smart guy and knows the offense real well. So even though he won’t be having an impact on the field, his impact in the meeting room, I think will be just as strong as ever and be really important for those guys coming in.

“It’ll be interesting to see who gets a lot of the reps, who takes advantage, who’s getting a good grasp of the offense early on, prior to practice starting,” Lisk added. “I think it’ll be important for all those guys to get some actual practice reps. What they’ve been looking at and studying for the past two months now. Spring is a learning period for everyone. So it doesn’t always look as pretty as you want it to, but it’s part of the process. It sounds like there’s some great guys though, and I would expect quarterbacks to play well.”

#2 The Utah Football Spring Running Back Battle

After the tragic passing of Ty Jordan on Christmas night in Texas, Utah will be looking for their next starting running back. It will be difficult to fill the void of Jordan both on and off the field. Micah Bernard made big strides last season as Jordan’s backup, especially in the Washington State game when both Jordan Wilmore and Devin Brumfield entered the transfer portal before the season finale. Bernard has the experience which gives him the upper hand going into spring ball. Don’t discount the ability of Oklahoma transfer T.J. Pledger and former LSU RB Chris Curry. Utah also signed three-star running back Ricky Parks.

“I think Utah is certainly, if it’s not already with the recruits we’re bringing in, I think it’s proof as to the two transfers, it’s an attractive spot for running backs based off of the history of guys going to the NFL, and consistent production from that position each year,” Lisk mentioned. “I think that they’re gonna thrive. Obviously, some big names coming from some big schools and big recruits. Micah (Bernard) last year, really stepped up and was becoming really productive for us. So, I think the running backs will pick it up just fine. I would expect big things from that position as normal.”

#3 Wide Receivers Responding To Off-Season Adversity

It’s been a tough off-season for the wide receiver room. Bryan Thompson decided to leave and join Arizona State. Samson Nacua is gone and will be a member of the BYU Cougars this season. Then wide receivers coach Guy Holliday was relieved of his duties. Although, Utah hired a young rising star in the profession in Chad Bumphis, who was a GA for Utah in 2018.

Utah added just one player to the room in three-star signee Makai Cope. The Utes might want to consider going to the transfer portal and getting a couple of wide receivers to provide depth. They are young and talented but it might not hurt to bring in more experience to team up with Britain Covey, Solomon Enis and company.

#4 Depth At Linebacker

Utah’s base defense is nickel. They use five secondary players, two linebackers and four defensive linemen. There will be times that Morgan Scalley will switch up his defense to a 4-3 and the Utes have plenty of young talent to come in and contribute right away. With Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell back as the returning starters, who else can come in  and contribute? Utah signed three big time linebackers from the 2021 class in four-star prospects Ethan Calvert and Mason Tufaga, along with three-star recruit Trey Reynolds.

It won’t be a question of how good Utah’s linebacker group will be, it’s how deep will they be when the 2021 season rolls around.

#5 Young Utah Players Contributing To Star-Studded Secondary

Entering the 2020 season, Utah’s biggest concern was the secondary, with all five starters from 2019 departing for the NFL or graduation. The five-game pandemic season gave critical experience to Clark Phillips III, JaTravis Broughton, Vonte Davis, Malone Mataele and Nate Ritchie. Backup corner Faybian Marks had some bright moments as well. It’s a talented unit but how deep will they be in September?

Get the latest spring football coverage for the Utah Utes, here and the Crimson Corner podcast.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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