No rest for the weary

By and

Spring is over for the U football team, but the work isn’t even halfway done. Players and coaches say goodbye as on-field correspondence takes a hiatus, but that doesn’t mean things will be any less rigorous as the team preps for the 2006 season.

The Utes will spend the next three months leading up to fall practice lifting, conditioning and trying to stay healthy before they re-convene in August. Staying in tip-top shape, U head coach Kyle Whittingham said, is of utmost importance-he expects his players to be in even better shape the next time he sees them.

“We’ve got to get every athlete in the program bigger, faster and stronger between now and August,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got to have a heck of a summer conditioning program.”

Whittingham and his coaching staff had very specific goals about what they needed to accomplish in the spring, and the second-year head coach said the team is right about where he wants it to be now that spring ball has ended-and his players agree.

“We came far,” cornerback Brice McCain said. “Everybody individually, players and the team, the coaches getting everybody on the same page?we’re ready for next season.”

The offensive and defensive schemes are installed, some of the positional competitions have become much clearer and, on the injury front, the team has escaped relatively unscathed. Minor injuries-two- or three-week setbacks-are the extent of the damage.

“We stayed pretty healthy during spring, so that’s not an issue. We’ve got to get the guys back that missed spring ball,” Whittingham said, referring to the likes of Eric Weddle, Casey Evans, Joe Jiannoni and Brian Johnson, all of whom missed significant portions of spring because of injuries.

While the quarterback battle has been well-documented, offensive execution as a whole has been a primary area of interest for Whittingham and Co. as they look to incorporate a slew of new starters all across the offensive lineup and at every position.

The offense looked rather ragged when the team kicked off spring camp, but players saw consistent progress across the board during the following four weeks.

With the exception of persistent fundamental errors, which were particularly obvious in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the offense is jelling as hoped, according to both players and coaches.

“The offense is really clicking toward the end here,” Dunn said after Saturday’s ballgame. “It’s a great springboard to the summer. We’re going to roll into fall camp and we’re going to be scary this year on offense.”

The Utes expect to get plenty of players back on the field in the fall, adding even more competition to what promises to be an already heated training camp. While many players impressed the U coaching staff in the spring and others got lost in the shuffle, many fates could be decided by who works hardest off the field.

“(We have to) stay in shape, stay healthy and come into camp running,” junior defensive end Martail Burnett said. “That’s the most important thing right now.”

Kamil Krzaczynski

Junior quarterback Tommy Grady zings a pass downfield during the spring game on Saturday at Rice-Eccles stadium.