Utah, which ends spring football on Tuesday with a final practice, played an open scrimmage on Saturday. The Utes coaches were careful to couch their expectations for the spring game, given that more than 20 players -- including 12 starters -- were sitting out. But even if spectators got few frills, there were a few things to glean from this final public look at the team before the fall.
1. Running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole showed up well. He finished Saturday's game with two rushing touchdowns and 44 yards on 11 carries as well as four receptions for 23 yards. With the transition to Troy Taylor’s system, the offense will utilize the pass game a bit more, so the latter part of that stat line is especially important if Henry-Cole wants to be the featured back. With the offensive line playing for both teams, the coaches had a chance to gauge the progress of each back without wondering whether certain plays succeeded because Tackle X was blocking instead of Tackle Y. Henry-Cole likely will head into the fall competing with Zack Moss, who left the spring game early and was seen later with a sling on his right arm. Moss was the team’s second-leading rusher a season ago behind Joe Williams.
2. There isn’t a clear-cut starter at quarterback yet. Though transfer Cooper Bateman (5-of-5, 53 yards, 1 touchdown) is clearly the third-string QB, he showed on Saturday that he’ll push incumbent Troy Williams (9-of-15, 73 yards) and Tyler Huntley (8-of-12, 65 yards, 1 interception) for the job. And yes, if you’ve followed Utah football of late, this is kind of an ongoing issue for the Utes. But in none of those seasons in which they completely relied on the run game to do most of the work did they have an offensive coordinator like Taylor, whose Eastern Washington team last season averaged 401 passing yards a game. This is an offense that will need an adept quarterback to get the chains moving, and so far, while there are candidates, no one seems to be a head above the rest. The summer should give each of these guys a chance to work more on fundamentals and dive further into the playbook -- Taylor was hoping to have 90-95 percent of his offense installed this season. Come fall, the sooner one of the quarterbacks stands out for Taylor, the better for the Utes.
3. Defensive back Julian Blackmon is a name to watch. Typically, coaches are either overly effusive after spring games (naming everyone down the depth chart as people who had nice showings) or vague with a standard response: “Lots of guys impressed, but no one stood out too much more than another.” Coach Kyle Whittingham and defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley were in the latter camp on Saturday when they spoke with reporters. But one name that both brought up after scrimmage was that of Blackmon. The sophomore finished with five tackles, including one for a loss, and two pass breakups. He also has shown leadership, which will be hugely important for a Utah secondary that lost so much talent and experience from its 2016 team.