Over the past few seasons, defense has carried Utah as its offense has experienced significant injury and inconsistency.
If Saturday’s spring camp action at Rice-Eccles Stadium was any indication, that may well be the case again in 2014. Throughout the day, the offense struggled to get much going on Kalani Sitake’s unit.
“I thought it was a good day,” Sitake said. “Obviously, we got beat in the two-minute stuff. We made some mistakes and we had a freak play that happened, but other than that we caused three turnovers, so I thought we did a lot of good things.”
The freak play came during the beginning of the scrimmage when linebacker Gionni Paul and a few other players were defending senior wide receiver Dres Anderson on a pass. Paul nearly intercepted the ball, but bobbled it as he battled for possession with Anderson. After the defenders tripped each other up, Anderson took control of the pigskin and ran for a 60-yard touchdown.
The defense did take a hit Saturday that could present a challenge when things get going for real in the fall. Senior linebacker Jacoby Hale tore his ACL and it is unclear whether or not he will be ready to play by the end of August. Hale played in nine games in 2013, making four starts. Entering spring camp, he was atop the depth chart at stud linebacker.
Sitake will be looking to freshman Uaea Masina to help fill the void left by Hale’s injury.
“I always thought he could be a starter for us, that he could always battle for a starting spot,” Sitake said. “That is what it is going to come down to, is all the guys competing for spots, and he is no different. He is a guy that does have a lot of ability.”
Even though the defense had success Saturday, head coach Kyle Whittingham wasn’t too satisfied with the defensive line.
“Defensive line was not real good today,” he said. “We are thin at defensive tackle and that is going to be the case all spring. We got four guys that we are going to add this fall that are not able to be here in the spring.”
Moving forward in spring camp, the offense still has to make improvement, but Whittingham and Sitake both are eager to see even more from the defense. Since a bevy of defensive players won’t be arriving until fall, the coaches want to use this time to help the players who are here to improve.
“We got to keep our guys polished up and see who these newcomers are,” Sitake said. “We have a couple injuries here and there but that is life, that is life in football. Guys got to step up, show up and make some plays. For the most part I think we did some good things and our defensive line is going to be fine. I say this every year but that has never been a worry for me.”