Utah football: Utes see progress despite inconclusive spring game – Salt Lake Tribune

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Little was settled Saturday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The quarterback battle remains open. The secondary is awaiting a touted class of incoming freshmen. The offensive line, with a mix of injuries and those sitting out for precautionary reasons, might not be fully set.

The one thing that was final after Utah football’s Red-White scrimmage — Red team beating White team 20-10 — mattered not much at all. But there were identifiable notches of how the Utes have progressed this spring hidden in the 90-minute scrimmage.

Signs like cornerback Julian Blackmon running over would-be receivers, or running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole storming through defensive lines for two touchdowns. Signs like Alabama transfer Cooper Bateman going 5 for 5 in limited action, including a 30-yard touchdown pass.



At the very least, coach Kyle Whittingham felt walking off the field that he has a much clearer sense of his personnel, his new offense and where his team is trending.

“It’s challenging, but we feel we’ve recruited the right way, and we have some pretty good players coming up through the system,” he said. “I think we’ll end up being a pretty good football team. How soon that is, we’ll find that out.”

There were limitations to reaching conclusions in the game: The quarterbacks weren’t live, and both offenses often had a rough go of moving behind a thin offensive line that had to play for both teams. Troy Williams and Tyler Huntley, who played only the first half, completed a combined 17 of 27 attempts for 138 yards. Neither had a touchdown pass, though Huntley threw an interception.

Huntley, however, had an easier time moving the ball, in part because of who was in his backfield: Henry-Cole.

The sophomore back helped spur two touchdown drives in the first half, getting six touches on the opening drive of the game for 42 of the 65 yards gained. He plunged through the fray on a 2-yard touchdown run, then managed another on a second-quarter drive.

In total, Henry-Cole had 44 yards rushing and 23 yards receiving on 15 touches, wrapping up a spring when he showed coaches he can be a good fit in an offense suited to a multifaceted back.

“I wanted to show that I’m capable of playing in the Pac-12,” he said. “I like this offense. It’s a speed offense, so that’s good for me — that’s good for my size and everything.”

His top counterpart, Zack Moss, had an unfortunate turn when he injured his right arm during a run in the second quarter. He was later spotted walking off the field with his arm wrapped and hanging in a sling. Whittingham said he wasn’t yet sure what the injury was, but hoped for a maximum recovery time of six weeks — well before fall camp begins.

Receivers mostly had a tough day: On the winning Red team, the top two receivers were running backs. Troy McCormick, a converted running back-turned-receiver, led the White team with five catches for 61 yards.

That meant a productive day for both defenses, which exploited an overmatched offensive line for eight combined sacks.

Chris Hart led the Red team with three, and forced one of the three fumbles on the day.

While the second half was played with a running clock, the passing game picked up slightly — albeit against the bottom of the depth chart. Bateman’s highlight pass was a 30-yard rope to Jameson Field against absent coverage, but walk-on Drew Lisk managed a longer one to McCormick, who cut inside the marker for the 43-yard score.

The Utes were without 22 players in total, accounting for injuries as well as players the team did not wish to risk.


Twitter: @kylegoon



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