The Utah Utes football team held its annual Red-White Spring Game on Saturday, April 19 in front of 12,000-plus fans, the 2009 Sugar Bowl Champion team and it was televised nationally by Pac-12 Networks.
Does that mean anyone learned anything from what was essentially a glorified scrimmage? That depended on what position you were watching.
Playing against a Cover-2 defense comprised of backups and walk-ons on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium, both teams’ offenses had success throwing the football. So if you had to give good marks to any position group, it would have to be at quarterback.
Quarterback Travis Wilson had success for the Red team, playing a mistake-free Spring Game as he wore the black jersey reserved for players not allowed to play full-contact football. Adam Schulz played well for the Whites -- although he was live for the entirety.
Wilson and Schulz weren’t the only quarterbacks to have success; Conner Manning played well and so did Brandon Cox, the latter throwing for 126 yards, most on the afternoon -- even if he did throw two picks.
Over 700 yards were amassed by both teams throwing, running and receiving the football. Here are five takeaways from the Spring Game.
Better running game
The Utes have sorely missed John White since he graduated two years ago. In fact, they haven’t found anyone capable of replacing him in the backfield.
Enter Devontae Booker, a JUCO transfer who had 103 rushing yards on 19 carries and one touchdown Saturday.
But, don’t forget about speedy Troy McCormick -- who lit up a defense that was more realistic a week ago in the team’s second scrimmage for over 100 yards on just five carries.
No starter at QB
Despite fans wishing it were so, the Utes still don’t have a bona fide starter at quarterback. Travis Wilson is still taking baby steps toward getting healthy again.
But, we won’t really know what Wilson can do until he goes live--which won’t happen for a few more months. Adam Schulz (pictured) is a capable backup--but he’s not starter material as Utah found out last season.
Keep an eye on Manning
The one to keep an eye on is quarterback Conner Manning, who had a decent spring. If Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson isn’t the answer, Manning is your wild card.
Manning followed up a solid second scrimmage with a solid Spring Game, giving fans a glimpse of the Utes future in the process. He went 6-of-9 for 86 yards and one touchdown.
The 6-foot-3 quarterback makes the right reads and even if he isn’t as mobile or as tall as Wilson, he has a quicker release.
The player who gained the most on Saturday was wide receiver Dominique Hatfield, who filled in for Kenneth Scott at the Spring Game.
The Utes opted to hold out Scott Saturday, which was just fine with Hatfield who caught four passes for 93 yards and one circus grab of a touchdown.
Hatfield's performance likely created a battle for the No. 2 wide receiver spot with Scott in fall camp.
No real difference
Despite the hope of every Ute fan, the offense under new coordinator Dave Christensen showed no marked improvement today compared to last year.
In fact, the offense under Dennis Erickson gained more yardage at last year’s Spring Game.
That said, the offense was pared down today against a vanilla defense that played one coverage all game. If you’re seeking marked improvement at one Spring Game, you'll probably want to look harder.