SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted two things about last Saturday’s first spring scrimmage.
First of all, Whittingham said the Utes have made a lot of progress in the three weeks since practices began. Secondly, he countered his initial statement.
“We’ve also got a lot of work to do,” Whittingham said after Utah opened it’s second-to-last week of spring ball Tuesday afternoon.
After reviewing film of the scrimmage, though, Whittingham felt the first extensive live work was pretty clean.
“Today was an outstanding practice,” he continued. “And like I said last week, the key now will be on Friday (the date of the next scrimmage) to be cleaner than we were on this past Saturday.”
Areas of concern, Whittingham explained, include the offensive line and linebackers, saying they were the positions that need the most shoring up.
EARLY RETIREMENT: Sophomore tight end Connor Haller, who made two catches for 12 yards last season, is retiring from the game because of medical reasons.
“He was pretty beat up and just couldn’t continue,” said Whittingham, who noted that Haller will stay on scholarship and earn his degree in December. “We’ll miss him. He was a great kid.”
GOOD MOVE: Cornerback Jaylon Johnson is confident that things will work out well in the secondary with Julian Blackmon moving from corner to safety this season.
“It’s a better change now he’s back in the backfield able to make plays over the deep ball, which is one of his strengths out of many,” Johnson said. “So, I mean, it’s definitely just more confidence in knowing that he has my back and we’ve got a lot of chemistry playing together. So it’ll be a great transition for me and for him.”
As for Blackmon’s spot at corner, Johnson expressed confidence in Tareke Lewis and Josh Nurse.
“We’ve just got to keep adding people to the party,” Johnson said.
WORKING HARD: Aside from Penn State transfer Manny Bowen, Utah doesn’t have a lot of linebackers in spring camp with starting experience (Francis Bernard isn’t participating because of an injury).
Linebackers coach Colton Swan reminds the guys of that fact.
“It’s open game. It’s a competition every time they take the field and the guys are working hard for it,” Swan said. “So not a lot of experience coming from the linebacker position but at the same time guys are stepping up and making plays and making progress and that’s what we like to see.”