Washington State and Utah the first to open spring practices
Washington State opened spring practices on Monday, while Utah follows suit the next day.
As is the case with Colorado, the Cougars and the Utes have their own set of questions to answer over the next 15 practices.
“We’ve got a lot to get accomplished”, said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “We’ve got to get everyone up to speed, establish a depth chart, and get a good idea what our pecking order will be.”
All practices at Utah will be open to the public, culminating in a Spring game, scheduled for April 16th.
According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the most pressing questions for Utah this spring are:
1) What will the offense look like under new offensive coordinator Norm Chow (formerly of UCLA)?
According to Whittingham, Utah and Colorado have many of the same goals.
“We’re going to be a lot more under center, do a lot more in the downhill running game,” said Whittingham. “We’ll have some play-action-pass element off the run game, and some different route structures (Chow) is bringing.”;
2) Who will the quarterback be?
Starter Jordan Wynn (can’t wait to hear that name for the next three seasons, Buff fans? Thanks, Dan) is out for the spring, so there will be a battle between Griff Robles and Tyler Shreve to see which of the two will battle Wynn for the starting job come August;
3) Who will be the starting running back?
Utah loses Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide, while another Asiata—Shawn—has left the program (Matt is a relative of the Buffs’ new offensive lineman, Paulay Asiata).
The new starter will likely either be a junior college transfer, John White, or true freshman Harvey Langi (coveted by the Buffs);
4) Will a former running back work out at cornerback?
Lucky Radley, who had the most snaps with the scout team at running back last fall, has been moved to cornerback, where the Utes lose starters Brandon Burton and Lamar Chapman; and
5) What will be the strength of the defense? The linebacking unit will be the strength, with freshman standout Brian Blechen moving from safety to linebacker.
Coming off of a 2-10 season, and a second-consecutive last place finish in the Pac-10, almost every job is up for grabs in Pullman.
“The depth chart, at this point, really means nothing. I’ve got to be honest,” embattled Washington State head coach Paul Wulff told the Kitsap Sun. “Just because someone started a year ago on a 2-10 team doesn’t make ‘em a starter going into 2011. They’ve all got to get better.”
One of the few starters likely to hold onto his job is junior quarterback Jeff Tuel. In 2010, Tuel completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns.
With his quarterback set, Wulff will turn his attentions to finding starters along the offensive and defensive lines, at linebacker, and at running back.
Last year’s leading rusher, James Montgomery (only 478 yards), is eligible for a medical hardship year, but did not apply for a sixth year of eligibility. Rickey Galvin, who suffered a broken arm on his first collegiate carry last fall, is a leading candidate for the starting job.
The secondary has all four starters back—but that is not necessarily good news.
Last season, Washington State ranked 104th in pass defense, 118th in total defense, and 110th in scoring defense last season.
Wulff will get a first look at seven junior college transfers—seeking an immediate infusion of success to a team which needs to be successful if Wulff is to return for a fifth season as head coach.
One reason for hope? Washington State is in position to get off to a fast start in 2011. The Cougars open with 1-AA Idaho State (1-10 in 2010, with its only win over NAIA doormat Montana-Western), and UNLV (2-10 in 2010, with the Rebels only wins over Wyoming and New Mexico).
After starting with Idaho State and UNLV, Washington State travels to San Diego State. The Cougars then get a bye week before traveling to Boulder to face the Buffs.
Washington State may very well have a better record heading into Pac-12 play than will the Buffs …