Utah Utes Spring Ball: Things to Keep an Eye On

A shell of my former selfCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2009

1) Who's QB-1?

While Sean Smith and Paul Kruger are raising NFL eyebrows, Utah's biggest loss is without a doubt, quarterback Brian Johnson. The fifth-year senior from Baytown, Texas wowed fans and implemented the two-minute offense nightmare into the minds of Oregon State, TCU, BYU and Alabama.

With Johnson gone, junior Corbin Louks has a leg up on the competition of JC transfer Terrance Cain, sophomore DeVonte Christopher and true freshman Jordan Wynn.

With Louks "listed" at 6-foot even and Cain is "listed" at 6-foot-1, both quarterbacks are a carbon-copy of one another and the springtime battle will come down to these two.

It's Louks' job to lose, but Cain's JC stat sheet speaks for itself and Wynn is the quarterback of the future. Something's gotta give, right? The only sure thing is, five years later, Brian Johnson won't be calling the plays.

2) The gold star goes to?

With most of Utah's star power gone (Johnson, Smith, Kruger and Sakoda), who is going to be the standout player that steps up for the Utes and takes the responsibility of team leader? Answer: Stevenson Sylvester.

The now-senior linebacker from Las Vegas, Nev., had a memorable Sugar Bowl performance, spearheading the feisty Ute defense with seven total tackles, including three sacks and a fumble recovery.

"Sly" has the keen athletic ability and defensive mentality to lead a talented and veteran Utah defense. At 6-foot-2, 224-lb., outside linebacker is without a doubt focused on beefing up his body and his slew of talented returning linebackers (Mike Wright, Nai Fotu, Kepa Gaison and Mo Neal).

3) Ground meet

What will the Utah offense look like in the fall of 2009? The team that went 13-0 averaged 37.4 points per game, including a well-balanced 168.4 yards on the ground and 236.8 through the air.

As newly-minted offensive coordinator Dave Schramm was Utah's running backs coach last year, will that effect the play-calling? It's doubtful. While the Utes have Louks and Cain vying for the starting quarterback position, the rushing attack will be ready to contribute.

Running back Matt Asiata, who had 707 yards rushing last season, including 12 touchdowns will be looked upon to pound the ball, with mix-up backs such as Eddie Wide and Sausin "Shak" Shakerin expected to get some interesting looks.

Utah was one of the top teams in the nation in clock management last season and with a potentially dominant defense, expect some more of the same.

4) A new trio, a different trio

With Freddie Brown, Bradon Godfrey and Brent Casteel graduated, the newest quarterback will inherit a group of talented, versatile wide receivers. While last year's trio was a grind-it-out type, going across the middle wasn't a second thought.

With Aiona Key (6-foot-4), David Reed (6-foot) and Jereme Brooks (5-foot-7, yep, that's right), Utah will have a towering presence that has won a national collegiate high jump contest, a JC transfer that has "all-around" ability and a minuscule speedster that goes across the middle—and is rarely caught.

The new trio will bring an interesting new look to the starting wideouts and look for newly-signed Antoine "Shaky" Smithson to make an impact.

5) Safety net

While Utah lost both starting cornerbacks, the starting safety tandem of free safety Robert Johnson and strong safety Joe Dale return for their senior seasons and will look to lead a rather inexperienced secondary.

With Smith's early exit and Brice McCain's graduation, RJ Stanford, Brandon Burton and Damilyn Tanner are the three corners that may have a leg up on the incoming competition.

Recent JC signees Kamaron Yancy (5-foot-9, 187-lbs.) and Maxwell Lacy (A Sean Smith clone at 6-foot-3, 210-lbs.) will vie for jobs come summer and fall time.

But the duo of Johnson and Dale will be looked upon to direct and compound during the coming season. Johnson's anticipation skills are the best in the MWC and Dale is a tackling machine. These two seniors will certainly be called upon and they will answer the call.


With Sakoda gone to the NFL, the starting kicker will come in question. Ben Vroman took care of kickoffs last season, while Sakoda knocked em' through the uprights. Vroman is No. 1 heading into spring ball, but keep a fresh eye on redshirt freshman Sean Sellwood (6-foot-3, 200-lbs.) who could challenge Vroman.

Incoming players such as top-rated JC defensive end James Aiono, alongside wide receiver Conroy Black, offensive lineman Kapua Sai and defensive tackle Siosaia "LT" Tuipulotu are some of the more notable signees that will report in the fall.

Former quarterback Chad Manis has been moved to the defensive side of the ball and is expected to see time at defensive end and outside linebacker, while former defensive tackle and tight end Neli A'asa is penciled in as the starter at right guard.

Quarterback DeVonte Christopher will see time as a change-up and mix-up player, according to head coach Kyle Whittingham.