The birds are singing and the sun is shining. It has finally stopped snowing for more than a day. It’s spring time in Salt Lake City. For Ute fans that means one thing — spring football.
It is about 160 days until the very first kick-off of the 2017 football season at Rice-Eccles Stadium where the Utes will take on the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. While that game isn’t scheduled for another few months, the team is getting its season prep underway.
The first day of open practice consisted of workouts and drills in the afternoon on Thursday, March 9. Ute fans of all ages, wearing Utah gear head-to-toe watched the three-hour practice to check out the newbies on the coaching staff and on the team.
New to the Utes is offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. Taylor has been involved with football and coaching since 1994, and he most recently was at Eastern Washington as the co-offensive coordinator.
Today wasn’t just Taylor’s first time as a Ute, but it was his first time watching the quarterbacks execute the ball, and he had some high praises for returning starting quarterback Troy Williams.
“[Troy Williams] was well today,” Taylor said. “He was accurate. I hadn’t seen these guys throw in person. This was my first time seeing them throw in person. I was anxious to see how these guys would respond. I thought he was very accurate in making decisions.”
Taylor is hoping he can implement some of the things he has done in the past into this Utah offense.
“I’m just going to do what I’ve done in the past — fast tempo, spread the ball around and be aggressive,” Taylor said. “I just want to get a first down, that’s all I want to do.”
While he had some favorable remarks about Williams, that starting position heading into the 2017 season isn’t set in stone, and he expects a few guys to give Williams a run for his money.
“I think everybody appreciates a clean slate and the ability to come in and compete,” Taylor said. “These guys will share equal reps and whoever plays the best will be the starter.”
Senior, Cooper Bateman is also new to the Utah football program. The third string quarterback is a transfer student from Alabama and he is also a Utah native. Bateman is becoming acclimated to his new surroundings as a Ute.
“It’s about learning a new system,” Bateman said. “I’m out here with 100 new guys I don’t really know so building chemistry with them out here on the field is tough. Again, that just comes with time and I’m looking forward to it.”
Bateman hopes that he can earn respect from his new teammates and new coaches to help him get in more reps.
“The scoop is kind of clear here,” Bateman said. “Troy has established himself as a starter. He played great last year like I said I knew I wasn’t coming here in a great situation but you can only work for it.”
Utah fans can look forward to the 14th Annual Red-White game on Saturday, April 15.
“It’s a great team here in terms of culture and attitude,” Taylor said. “They’re very hungry to learn and very coachable.”