Five Things Utah Football Needs To Sort Out During Spring Ball

Mar 11, 2024, 9:00 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – Spring ball is just a day away for Utah football and for the most part the team looks to be in great shape heading into a new conference for the 2024 season.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to be addressed and worked on in preparation for the upcoming football season. Even the best teams have details to hammer out.

The Utes have a solid returning core that are proven winners and did a lot of work bringing in top high school and transfer portal talent. Below we take a look at some of the things Utah needs to address as they get ready for life in the Big 12 and the opportunities that could arise in 2024.

Utah Has A Lot Of Rust To Knock Off

There is usually always some rust to knock off between the end of last season and the beginning of spring ball. Utah’s case might be a little more extreme than in most years.

Season ending injuries plagued the Utes in 2023- especially the key players that will give Utah a chance to do something special in 2024.

Quarterback Cam Rising, tight end Brant Kuithe, running back Micah Bernard, and linebacker Lander Barton are just a few names that haven’t played in a while.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t a concern, just a point of emphasis. All of these guys know how to work and what it takes to be great.

It’s more about using spring to evaluate where everyone is in their recoveries, getting them comfortable playing again, and of course keeping them safe until it’s time to let it rip.

Covering The Gaps On The Utah Offensive Line

Speaking of keeping people safe…a very important piece to that idea is filling two vacated spots on the offensive line due to the NFL departures of Sataoa Laumea and Keaton Bills.

Keeping Cam Rising upright all season long is probably job number one for the Utes. After all, as we all saw last season, Rising is the guy who makes the whole thing go. However, the whole thing can’t go if he doesn’t have time.

Laumea and Bills were really great, experienced talents on the line, but thankfully Utah will return three of the five along with several guys who have played a lot of snaps and young, promising talent.

Look for guys like Spencer Fano, Michael Mokofisi, Johnny Maea, Koli Faaiu, Jaren Kump, and Falcon Kaumatule among others being asked to step up and take ownership of the unit.

Additionally, the Utes will be looking to see where some of the newcomers fit in with eyes primarily looking at what freshman Isaiah Garcia- one of the top-rated prospects out of the state of Utah, can do.

Prepping QB2

With any luck, the Utes won’t have to worry about using quarterback two in 2024, but just in case you can bet Brandon Rose and freshman Isaac Wilson will be getting a lot of looks in spring.

Part of this is because Rising will not be used in any live situations to preserve him for the season, and the other part of it is going to be wanting to see who they have behind their proven guy.

Utah tried to do this last year but had issues for various reasons- injuries being part of it. (Nate Johnson who eventually transferred spent most of spring injured allowing Brandon Rose to make big strides only to have Rose get injured in fall camp and putting Johnson behind the eight ball to get caught up.)

*Knocks on wood* Utah will have better luck and really be able to evaluate both Rose and Wilson through all of spring and fall camp.

This will also likely go a very long way to determining what kind of transfer quarterback the Utes may go after during the spring transfer portal period.

If Rose or Wilson or both appear ready, Utah may be comfortable with a high-ceiling project to add depth, or if they aren’t ready, Utah maybe more aggressive in getting a guy who is more polished to sit behind Rising just in case.

Safety Pride Reload

Utah will need to reload middle-back of their defense in 2024 with Cole Bishop and Sione Vaki declaring for the NFL Draft.

The great news for the Utes is they have an eye for defense and reloading is almost always the correct term to use for them year in and year out. The bad news is that Bishop and Vaki were really, really good and its always nerve-wracking plugging new people in to something that worked so well for a few years.

Utah does have some promising talent waiting in the wings, however, and they will get their chance to show what they’ve got during spring practices.

Nate Ritchie might be the most proven of the bunch (in Utah’s defense) as he was a standout in the shortened 2020 season before he went on his mission. Stanford transfer Alaka’i Gilman also brings a lot of experience, and it will be interesting to see where he maybe fits in/fills in.

Tao Johnson brings a lot of versatility and could address several different needs (corner, safety, or nickel) depending on who else looks ready.

The Utes also have guys like Jonathan Hall, Briton Allen and Jeilani Davis to consider as well.

There Is One Corner Spot For Grabs Too

Corner is a little less intense for the Utes with just one vacated spot that was mainly occupied by Miles Battle who is off to the NFL and JaTravis Broughton who transferred. Still, it’s something to be addressed.

Obviously, we mentioned Johnson could possibly slide into that spot if needed (popular belief for now seems to indicate free safety for him).

Utah has several other players they will be looking into including transfers Kenan Johnson and Cameron Calhoun along with Smith Snowden (popular belief for Snowden is he will take on nickel) and CJ Blocker.

Utes Will Look At Their Passing Game

Perhaps the position group Utah was most aggressive in going after this past off-season was receiver along with some pass-catching tight ends.

Everyone knows Utah is very effective pounding the rock as much as possible and they’ve gotten better the past few years throwing the ball with their tight ends. However, they are looking to spread the field even more and took the first step towards being better at it through recruiting and the transfer portal.

Now it’s time to make the connections strong.

With Rising being limited, spring is a perfect time to just let him get comfortable with all the weapons that have been brought in.

Guys like Dorian Singer and Mycah Pittman figure to be big pieces of the passing game in 2024. Taeshaun Lyons was another great find for the Utes that they will want to try and get going along with freshman David Washington.

Utah scored big with transfer Carsen Ryan whom many believe could fill a Dalton Kincaid-like role.

Then there are the talented guys who have been in the program all along- Money Parks, Munir McClain, Landen King, etc.

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 XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Five Things Utah Football Needs To Sort Out During Spring Ball