SALT LAKE CITY — Springing forward to summer conditioning and fall camp, Utah may have a three-way quarterback battle on its hands. Alabama transfer Cooper Bateman continued to make a case to compete with Troy Williams and Tyler Huntley with a strong showing in Saturday’s red and white spring game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“I’m a Cooper Bateman fan. I think he’s a great kid. He’s a mature kid. He’s got a great attitude. I can’t say enough good things about him,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “It’s going to be interesting this fall. I mean, he has got a shot. We’ll see what happens in fall camp.”
Whittingham noted that three quarterbacks won’t be able to get reps for too long, but it’s certainly going to be an open competition at least in the beginning.
“I don’t known how we’ll breaks the reps up,” Whittingham said. “But he’ll get enough reps to show what he can do.”
Bateman completed all five passes he attempted, including a 30-yard touchdown strike to Jameson Field in helping the red squad to a 20-10 victory over the white.
“I’m a third-string quarterback right now. That’s pretty evident,” said Bateman, who took far fewer reps in spring camp than returnees Williams and Huntley did. “You can only work up from here. So I look forward to this summer and fall camp to build chemistry with the receivers and just keep getting better and climbing up.”
Bateman acknowledged that he would like to compete for the top job this fall. He’d prefer to stay at quarterback rather than switching positions.
“But whatever gets me out here on the field I’m all for it,” he said;
NFL GEAR: Former Utah quarterback Scott Mitchell wore his old Detroit Lions helmet for an early portion of the annual alumni flag football game.
“I had it in my truck and I thought it would be kind of funny to put it on,” he said. “It made me feel like I was really doing something.”
After opting to send the helmet to the locker room, Mitchell went on to lead the red team to a win over the white. The ex-NFL star has been a regular at the annual gathering.
“I dread it until I get out on the field. I keep saying to myself I’m not going to do it any more and then I get out there and the juices start flowing,” Mitchell said. “After you get warmed enough to make some decent throws, I actually have fun doing it. I really do.”
CATCHING ON: Although no kicks were attempted in the alumni game, former kickers Dan Pulsipher and Tommy Truhe were named co-MVPs. Announcer Bill Marcroft, the longtime voice of the Utes, made the call after the players made several catches as receivers.
The game featured alumni from a variety of classes. Many participated in a golf tournament on Friday.
“We just have had a tremendous outpouring, I think, from the alums because of Kyle (Whittingham),” Marcroft said. “Kyle is welcoming everybody back with open arms.”
KILT-A-RAMA: Offensive lineman Jesse Boone wore a kilt in the alumni game.
“I was trying to get something on today for my game and I didn’t have any shorts that fit me,” Boone said. “So this is what I had. It’s universal. You can just cinch it up and it fits you no matter what.”
Boone became a Highland games participant after taking his father-in-law, who is of Scottish descent, to a festival at Thanksgiving Point one year.
STRONG SUPPORT: Freshman defensive tackle Mark Kruger had the backing of older brothers and former Utah standouts Paul, Dave and Joe at the spring game.
“I’m here to support my brother and any time I get a chance to come back to the University of Utah I love to — just an amazing place, so many good memories here,” said Paul, who is an NFL free agent after stints with the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints.
Paul has fond memories of Mark being a little dude running around. He’d bring his little brother into the locker room after games and make him feel a part of things. Mark became a loyal Utah fan despite growing up in Utah County.
“To see him here, now, in a uniform it’s pretty emotional for me because I remember him at such a young age being so dedicated,” Paul said.
MORE BACKING: Cleveland Browns defensive end Nate Orchard was also at the spring game. He was there to support and watch his brother-in-law Adam Webber, a walk-on, show what he can do.
“It’s a great time to be around here at Utah,” Orchard said.
RECRUITS APLENTY: Tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham, who is also Utah’s recruiting coordinator, acknowledged it was a busy weekend for the Utes in that regard. They hosted approximately 50 recruits (at least 25 with offers from schools), making it the biggest spring game turnout in Whittingham’s six years with the program. The group, which includes Utah signees from 2017, started the day at the football facility and had additional activities scheduled after the game.
“It’s a big event for us,” Whittingham said. “It’s a really good recruiting tool for us to bring them here to the spring game.”