Kyle Whittingham’s Thoughts On Utah Spring Game

Apr 23, 2022, 7:02 PM
Kyle Whittingham vs. Weber State 2021...
Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the University of Utah Utes walks the sideline during a game against the Weber State Wildcats September 2, 2021 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY- Utah’s spring practices are now in the rearview mirror after Saturday’s Red and White Game. Head coach Kyle Whittingham had some initial thoughts on how his guys performed after the spring game.

The QB2 Battle

It is often said if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback when it comes to picking your starter. However, there is a little more leeway when it comes to picking a backup and Utah just might be in a position where they don’t necessarily pick a backup outright. Both Bryson Barnes and Ja’Quinden Jackson impressed Saturday afternoon and Whittingham says the coaching staff will do their due diligence in rewatching the film.

“We will have to dissect it,” Whittingham said. “I couldn’t tell you just by observing first hand, but I thought they both did some good things. Ja’Quinden Jackson has really made a ton of progress since he got here. He’s really starting to become a quality quarterback and Bryson Barnes makes some good plays too. We want to hopefully have a pecking order going into fall camp, but if it’s a dead heat still then it’s a dead heat. That’s not as critical as trying to figure out your number one guy.

Devaughn Vele

Vele has been a guy that has been talked a lot about since he arrived on campus in 2019 as a walk-on. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always equated to great in-game success due to injuries. However, Whittingham thinks Vele’s emergence through spring ball and (knock on wood) good health are good signs of what is to come.

“It’s big,” Whittingham said. “It’s big for Cam because he has a guy he has great chemistry- that’s not to say that say Solo- he’s another guy that Cam and him have a good rapport with one another as far as on the field. If Devaughn can stay healthy and if he can continue to make the plays that he made all spring long and carry that over into fall camp and the season, he could have a big year for us.”

The Freshmen

Utah’s latest crop of freshmen impressed Saturday afternoon not only on the field, but in the post-scrimmage presser. Both Jaylon Glover and Lander Barton were asked about what their plans were for the off-season before summer workouts start up and they both responded they were going to continue putting in unrequired work. When informed of their response, Whittingham said it was a sign of their maturity and willingness to be a team player.

“All of those freshmen who came in early- Carson Tabarraci, Lander, Justin Medlock, Jaylon Glover and one or two others that I’m not thinking of right now- Tyler Knaak from Brighton- it’s such a big advantage,” Whittingham said. “Where we are with linebackers and losing Devin and Nephi and needing that position to develop- it was huge for those three linebackers to get in here early so they can start on their development.”

Overall Team Growth

Whittingham said at the beginning of spring ball that he wanted to see every individual player get better than they were to start. He wanted to see fundamentals developed throughout the team and after the past four weeks Whittingham thinks that goal has been accomplished.

“We saw virtually every player in the program get better fundamentally and technique-wise,” Whittingham said. “That’s what you’d expect, right? They are out there 15 practices so if they aren’t getting better then there is something you aren’t doing right. We felt like we got that accomplished.”

Secondary Status

Early on in spring there were some concerns for the Utes as to what the secondary was going to look like after having completely gone through the position group a year prior. While still maintaining there are things to work on, Whittingham did seem confident they will have the depth and talent they need come fall.

“Faybian Marks and Zemaiah Vaughn are still not with us,” Whittingham said. “Clark Phillips is a little banged up from spring. Nothing serious, but all of those guys will be ready for summer conditioning on June 1st when everything gets going. I think in the final analysis we are going to be pretty good in the secondary. Cole Bishop is going to be a heck of a football player for us. R.J. Hubert didn’t play today but had a good spring. I think we have plenty of talent back there and we’ve just got to get those guys to come together and gel in fall camp.”

Offensive Line

Came Rising has looked next-level good through spring and the Utes would like to keep him that way. The big guys up front will be a key in Utah’s success and Whittingham knows they need to make quicker decisions than they did last year as to who the starting five will be.

“Right now we’ve identified eight guys who are absolutely ready to play,” Whittingham said. “They were with us in spring. This does not include Jaren Kump or Paul Maile who were not available in spring football. We think we will have a solid two-deep- 10 guys we can count on. We will have those front five playing together from the onset and get much more of a head start than we did last year. Last year we had a lot of injuries upfront and guys shuffling the deck seemingly every day through fall camp. If we can stay healthy I think the o-line will be ready to roll.”

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