It’s a slow time of year in college football. Spring practices are over and the NFL draft has come and gone, leaving four long months before college football returns to our television screens. We’ll take a look at some questions facing each Pac-12 team over the next couple weeks. Next up: Utah.
Will new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor make an immediate impact?
Of all the new coordinators in the conference, Taylor might be the most intriguing. Just two years ago he was coaching high school football in Northern California, and last year as the coordinator at Eastern Washington he engineered one of the most exciting offenses in the country at the FCS level. Taylor, a former quarterback at Cal, has an excellent reputation for working with QBs, which is exactly the type of coach the Utes needed to bring in. From a talent perspective, however, the Utes have a lot to overcome. Joe Williams, a fourth-round pick of San Francisco, benefitted by running behind four offensive linemen who also were drafted by NFL teams -- including first-rounder Garrett Bolles. If Taylor can find solutions for those departures, the Utes should be in good shape.
QB Troy Williams is the returning starter, but will he keep his job?
As the incumbent starting quarterback, Williams is the favorite to keep his job, if only by default. With a new coordinator, however, that status doesn’t necessarily mean much. It’s a completely different system and one that will evolve in order to take advantage of the skill set of whoever wins the job. Williams had a few impressive games last year (see: USC, Arizona State) but was inconsistent and not very accurate (53.1 percent completion percentage). He certainly didn’t play well enough to guarantee he would remain the starter next year. Tyler Huntley served as the No. 2 as a true freshman and saw his most meaningful playing time in the bowl win against Indiana. He has the potential to pass Williams on the depth chart, but the more interesting candidate to win the job – at least from afar -- is Cooper Bateman. Bateman transferred from Alabama, where he was as backup the last four seasons.
What will it take for Utah to win the Pac-12 South?
With Colorado’s Pac-12 South title in 2016, Utah is now the only team not won the division since it was created when the conference expanded to 12 teams in 2011. Considering Utah made the jump from a lower-tier conference to join the Pac-12, it shouldn’t be too surprising the Utes are still without a division title, but they have proved they belong. In the last three seasons, only Stanford (.750) has a better overall winning percentage than Utah (.718), which is tied for the fourth-best winning percentage during conference play in that span (.593). USC will be the overwhelming favorite in the South next year, but Utah should be in that next tier – and it feels like only a matter of time before that breakout season comes and the Utes play for a conference title.