Football: Making Strides on Both Sides of the Field


Chris Ayers

Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham answering questions during the Signing Day press conference at the Eccles Football Center on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Chris Ayers, Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Gianna Cefalu

While the rest of the campus is on spring, the University of Utah football team is also the week off in the middle of its spring camp.

So far, head coach Kyle Whittingham hasn’t felt like the offensive execution has been up to par, but he credits the defense for applying pressure. All in all, he’s confident in the team’s progress and its potential to improve.

“One thing that is evident about this team is their great work ethic and concentration from start to finish,” Whittingham said. “Even though the practices this year are shorter, the team is getting more reps than we have in the past, so that’s a good thing to see.”

The offensive line is looking to make improvements this spring with new faces stepping in, like Mo Unatoa and Orlando Umana. Johnny Capra and Darrin Paulo are out with injuries this spring, but their return will make a huge impact in protecting the quarterback.

The quarterback situation has been a strong component for the Utes this spring. Tyler Huntley and Jack Tuttle have been busy pushing each other and Whittingham is pleased to see both of their efforts.

Running back Armand Shyne is in his second consecutive season coming back from a season-ending injury. He has bounced back from both knee and forearm injuries and has gained more confidence with every rep he takes. Shyne has completely healed and his skills have improved immensely from when he was injured one year ago. 

Cornerbacks Julian Blackmon and Josh Nurse are the two deep end corners for the Utes this upcoming season. Whittingham expressed they have more depth in the corner position than any other time in recent memory.

The Utes have lost some key guys on their front defense, including Kylie Fitts, Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi. Whittingham is still thrilled about the 19 new defensive linemen who are practicing this spring and coming into the system to take their places. Defensive lineman Bradlee Anae is the only returning member of the defensive line this year, and Whittingham has confidence in Anae’s ability to manage the game.

“He is one of the leaders up front along with Leki Fotu,” Whittingham said. “They are both very good players and we will be looking for them to both have very good years for us. We will reload the defensive line, that is the nature of the game. Guys graduate and then you have others come through the system that step into their shoes and you just keep on going.”

Another addition to the linebacker position is Chase Hansen, making the switch from safety.

“It has been good and I feel natural,” Hansen said. “It really has been more on the mental side of things. Physically I feel like I’ve been in that position when I played in the box, but it feels good. I need to get heavier and get healthy and put on some good weight and work on some of the footwork.”

Hansen believes the offense this season will be the toughest to play against because of their dynamics and quickness. On the defensive side, Hansen feels they are playing well and have potential to become great.

The Utes will resume spring camp on Monday, March 26.

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