As spring practice concludes across the Pac-12, position battles still rage. Jobs still can be earned during training camp in August, but this time of year provides prime opportunity to make a move and potentially solidify areas of uncertainty on the roster. We’re looking at which position battles are most critical across the league this offseason, continuing with the Utah Utes.
1. Quarterback: With the exception of UCLA, every team in the Pac-12 South has some sort of issue at quarterback, be it injury (Colorado), competition to replace a departed starter (ASU, USC) or an upstart challenging an incumbent (Arizona). Utah is no different as it looks to replace Travis Wilson. True freshman Tyler Huntley made a late push at the end of spring ball to solidify a three-way race heading into fall. Transfer Troy Williams missed the last couple of weeks with a sore shoulder -- an injury Kyle Whittingham said was not serious -- giving Huntley the opportunity he needed to make his move. Brandon Cox played well enough to stay in the conversation, but was outdueled by Huntley in the spring game. At this point, it’s still flipping a three-sided coin as no one took enough of a step forward.
2. Linebacker: Whittingham joked on Tuesday’s conference call with media that Utah’s 4-3 scheme is ancient, noting that last season the Utes only played in their “base” defense about 16 percent of the time. The rest of that time was spent in nickel to combat the various spread offenses they see in the league on a weekly basis. So while the Utes technically have to replace all three linebackers from last season -- which included Gionni Paul, Jared Norris and Jason Whittingham -- Kyle Whittingham said he’s really looking for five. That would include two starters, two backups and another option. As he put it: “Two pairs and a spare.” The first pair seems to be set. Whittingham said that Sunia Tauteoli and Cody Barton emerged as the Nos. 1 and 2 linebackers, respectively. Now it’s just matter of finding the other pair and spare.
3. Wide receiver: Regardless of who wins the quarterback competition, the TBD-QB is still going to need someone to throw to. Figuring out who that will be could take time since the Utes are replacing their top three receivers from last season in Britain Covey (43 catches, 519 yards, 4 touchdowns), Kenneth Scott (39-457-4) and running back Devontae Booker (37-318-0). The outgoing depth chart from spring lists Raelon Singleton, Cory Butler-Byrd and Tyrone Smith as the starting trio. That may hold into fall. But it may not. Caleb Repp had a strong spring game with five catches for 96 yards and the game’s lone receiving touchdown. Kyle Fulks and Kenric Young also will be vying for catches. Look for plenty of mix-and-match in the months to come.