Offense, defense adjusting to different roles

By Christopher Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

Getting offensive

After Friday’s scrimmage, the talk of the team was the offense.

When it comes to spring practices, it’s usually the offensive side of the ball that takes longer to get accustomed to play-calling8212;that includes all new players and staff members who weren’t part of last year’s season.

It’s especially difficult to get going when you lose your quarterback of five seasons, a large portion of your receiving corps, the left side of the offensive line and the last Ute to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

“I definitely feel good,” said junior quarterback Corbin Louks. “Putting in the new offense, the new system, you know there’s obviously going to be some growing pains at the beginning and there still is growing pains, but we can’t make excuses.”

With former offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig having left for Kansas State and then quickly hired as the offensive coordinator at Cal, former running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Dave Schramm has inherited a different corps of players this season8212;most notably, quarterback.

With Louks and recent juco transfer Terrance Cain performing at high levels early on, Schramm will have to choose between the two relatively inexperienced Division-1 quarterbacks.

But with last week’s impressive scrimmage performance, the offense looks to be in a win-win situation.

“We just gotta keep getting better and keep improving,” Louks said.

Same old, same old, kinda

Free safety Robert Johnson thinks this year’s defense is going to be the same as last year’s.

Minus those two big holes that spell out Paul Kruger and Sean Smith.

But the senior from Watts, Calif., has faith that his last year at the U will feature a stifling squad of defenders.

“It’s like, we have the same defense that’s coming back from last year, so we all got the feel for each other and where we’re going to be at,” Johnson said. “It seems like it all comes down to leadership right now.”

With leadership comes Stevenson “Sly” Sylvester.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 230-lb. senior linebacker from Las Vegas is the only Utah captain from a previous season to have returned to the team.

“We can go out there and just do what we do and be successful and that’s what makes this team great,” Sylvester said. “I love being around these people.”

The likes of Sylvester, Johnson and strong safety Joe Dale are seniors who are ready and willing to take on the next challenge.

“We’re all just kinda playing our role and making sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Johnson said.

Holding out

The few fans who came out to brave the cold in last week’s practice did the exact same thing as Sylvester, Johnson and Matt Asiata did.

They watched from the sidelines.

A handful of set-in-stone starters have been held out of full-contact play, but have been going full-bore in practice.

“I’m not hurt or anything,” Johnson said, laughing.

Harder, better, faster, stronger

Spring tests brought some pleasant surprises.

Utah’s two leading candidates for the starting cornerback positions, R.J. Stanford and Brandon Burton, ran the two fastest 40 times, running a 4.3 and 4.33, respectively. Stanford, the senior from Chino, Calif., also placed first in the team’s agility drills and vertical jump test, earning a 37.5 inch vertical. Defensive tackle Kenape Eliapo and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Derek Tuimauga earned Utah’s strongest man award for the spring as Eliapo, a 6-foot, 310-lb. senior, put up a 600-lb. squat, while Tuimaga put up 435 lbs. on the bench press.

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Erik Daenitz

With an impressive performance in Friday?s scrimmage, Ute quarterback Corbin Louks is confident and stresses the need for constant improvement.