Whittingham On Scrimmages, Standouts During Utah’s Spring Ball

Apr 19, 2022, 7:53 PM

Kyle Whittingham - Utah Utes - Rose Bowl...

Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes looks on during the fourth quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2022 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY- Utah is wrapping up spring ball this week, and head coach Kyle Whittingham continued his praise of the Utes’ efforts. Last Saturday the team held a final scrimmage before this Saturday’s Red and White Game and according to Whittingham, the improvements he wanted to see where made.

“It was a step forward from the first scrimmage which is what we wanted to see happen,” Whittingham said. “It was about the same length, a few different situations than what we had in the first one. It was invaluable work, great evaluation tool, and one of the best things is no one was seriously injured.”

The Spring Game

The Utes will wrap up their spring practice with their annual spring game on Saturday. Whittingham anticipates for the most the Red and White Game will showcase the younger guys still vying for open spots.

“It’s really going to be featuring a lot of the new guys,” Whittingham said. “The guys who haven’t played a lot of football for us and we want to see how they will react to as game-like a situation as we can create. You’ll see a lot of guys not play, some of the front line guys- half a dozen on each side of the ball. It’s really for the guys who haven’t spent much time at this level.”

One of the biggest battles fans are likely to see during the spring game will be between Bryson Barnes and Ja’Quinden Jackson for the second string quarterback spot. Both players have continued to make strides through spring and will have the opportunity to demonstrate it publicly.

“It’s still a battle for number two,” Whittingham said. “JJ and Bryson Barnes are really both taking steps forward, but they are neck and neck still. It’s really a dead heat at this point. Both of those guys are going to get extensive work in the game on Saturday. That might create some separation.”

Spring Standouts

Whittingham mentioned the same three freshmen as “standouts” from spring. Running back Jaylon Glover and linebackers Lander Barton and Justin Medlock have consistently earned praise throughout spring ball for their practice and play.

“Jaylon Glover has been fantastic this spring,” Whittingham said. “Lander Barton, Justin Medlock- the same three I’ve mentioned before.”

While the young freshmen have been turning heads throughout spring, there have been several more senior players that have earned Whittingham’s approval as well.

“It’s great to get J.T. Broughton back at corner,” Whittingham said. “He was injured early in the season and he was out early in spring, but at the end had a very productive spring. Malone Mataele has really started to develop. He started all last year for us, but he’s getting even better. Cole Bishop. Very good football player. The tight ends as you would expect. We’re pleased with the progress of the o-line and the d-tackles are going to be a strong suite for us as well with the way they are playing for us.”

Receivers And Defensive Ends

You may never have heard of Kyrese Rowan before, but that could change. The wide receiver from Ogden is hard to miss with his flowing locks, but also his playmaking abilities. During Saturday’s scrimmage he appeared to be a reliable target and could very well see playing time at receiver and special teams this fall.

“Kyrese is a tough receiver,” Whittingham said. “He’s always working, he’s always doing everything right. He’s a great special teams guy as well. I think he’s on every single special teams. he’s one of the leaders in the room and he’s the same guy every single day. He comes in and gives it his all every single day.”

With Mika Tafua just days away from learning his fate in the NFL, one of the biggest questions heading into spring was who would take his open defensive end spot?  Sophomore Van Fillinger impressed last season as a freshman on the opposite side, but the person who would be his new partner in crime was a mystery. Now, it appears Utah has some answers.

“Jonah Elliss has had a really good spring,” Whittingham said. “Connor O’Toole who moved from receiver to defensive end- seems to be a good fit for him. Of course, Miki Suguturaga is a guy who has played his best ball this spring. Those four guys are the top four right now at the position. We have a couple of guys coming this fall that we are excited about as well.”

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Whittingham On Scrimmages, Standouts During Utah’s Spring Ball