Kyle Whittingham’s Thoughts On The First Day Of Spring Ball

Mar 21, 2023, 7:28 PM | Updated: Mar 22, 2023, 9:53 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah football is officially in spring ball mode and head coach Kyle Whittingham had some thoughts to give the media after day one.

The Utes have a great shot at three-peating in 2023 as conference champions- something that has never been done in the Pac-12-era. Unsurprisingly, Utah has talked about that fact a lot according to Whitt and company who all noted it’s one of the many goals the team has for this season.

The Quarterbacks

As is well-documented by now, starting quarterback Cam Rising will not physically be participating in spring ball while he recovers and rehabs from an ACL injury sustained in the Rose Bowl. This opens up valuable practice reps to the guys behind him and Whittingham plans on using it to the Utes’ advantage.

“We want to sort things out and get a pecking order,” Whittingham said. “Cam is obviously our number one guy but not taking any reps in spring which leaves a bunch of reps for two through five, so we’ve got to determine who those five guys are going to be. It’s a complete body of work through spring, got a good start today, but as the reps accumulate, we hope to see some separation.”

Whittingham revealed the staff hopes to let the remaining quarterbacks be live through spring ball, but that will depend on the health of the position group moving forward. He also said reps will not be equally distributed between the quarterbacks who can compete through spring.

“Nate and Rose will get the most,” Whittingham said. “We know what Bryson Barnes is. He’s a very good player for us and has done good things but we have a big sample size on him. We really need to hone in on Rose and Nate to see what they can do.”

The Safeties

Utah received a bit of a surprise after free safety Clayton Isbell hit the transfer portal last week as he was expected to be a big contributor for the Utes in 2023 after transferring to the team last season. Whittingham didn’t appear alarmed by Isbell’s decision noting the players they still have available and the ability to hit the transfer portal if no one pans out the way they want.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a pressing issue,” Whittingham said. “We still have a lot of depth and really good players there. Vaki, Cole Bishop, and Nate Ritchie is coming back off his mission. Johnathan Hall is an early graduate from high school, so we should be in good shape there. If we feel like we aren’t after spring, there is always the portal to supplement what we’ve got.

Whitt did mention Ritchie is being eased back into playing shape and that it’s been a bit of a process. Utah still expects their talented safety who has served a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints mission the past two seasons after starting his freshman year in 2020.

“It’s been a slow process,” Whittingham said. “It takes a while to get back into shape and get your legs back underneath you. He was not out there today. He’s not ready. He’s battling some lingering things that cropped up during winter conditioning, but we hope to get him out there at some point during spring ball. He’s a proven commodity. He played all of that ’20 season even though it was an abbreviated season and did some really good things.”

Kickers Are People Too

Colorado transfer Cole Becker is the guy at kicker according to Whittingham unless Joey Cheek beats him out. It is worth noting in the limited time media was able to watch that Becker appeared to show more range than the Utes have had since Matt Gay graduated in 2019. Still, it’s day one and a very small sample size to go off of, but initial impressions felt positive.

“Cole Becker is the guy unless he gets beat out by Joey Cheek,” Whittingham said. “It’s Cole’s job to lose.”

Offensive Line

The Utes will be without Braeden Daniels who is in the process of trying to ink an NFL career in the 2023 Draft, and Paul Maile who is now a graduate transfer down at BYU. Even with two key guys missing from the lineup, Whittingham likes what the group as a whole has to offer.

“Really good depth at the o-line,” Whittingham said. “That room has plenty of able bodies. We’ve got 15, 16 scholarship guys that we think are really good and we should come away with a solid 10 guys which is ideal. If you can get 10 guys coming into the season that you feel good about, then that is ideal.”

Something new the Utes are going to try out this spring is moving Jaren Kump to center. Kump, like the many centers before him was credited by Whittingham as being a guy who is capable of playing every position on the line.

“We’re going to give him a lot of reps there in spring and see how he performs,” Whittingham said. “We’re going to experiment with some other guys as well. Jaren can really play all five spots and that is a plus but has the least amount of experience at center which is what we’ll focus on this spring.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports.

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Kyle Whittingham’s Thoughts On The First Day Of Spring Ball