Utah offense a work in progress as spring practice resumes
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Troy Taylor would like 90-95 percent of his offense installed by the end of spring practices, though Utah's new offensive coordinator knows there's ebbs and flows to the process.
The Utes returned to the field Tuesday following spring break, and the offense wasn't as sharp as Taylor hoped during its first day in pads.
''You want to progress as spring progresses,'' Taylor said. ''We had two pretty good days, took a little step back today. I thought we played a little slower with the pads and it affected us a little bit.
''So, hopefully, we'll adapt and adjust and play better Thursday.''
Taylor is installing a fast-paced, pass-first, progression-based offense that he has crafted over the years. He was the co-offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington last season, and the Eagles led the FCS with 401.0 passing yards per game, ranked No. 2 in total offense (529.6) and No. 3 in scoring offense (42.4 points per game). Taylor previously ran an elite quarterback camp in California and coached at Folsom High School, where he tutored Washington quarterback and 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jake Browning.
Utah has been one of the worst passing teams in the conference since joining in 2011.
Taylor isn't concerned with the rough Tuesday.
''It's kind of a feel thing,'' Taylor said. ''You install some stuff, if they get it then you move one. Today, they seemed to take a step back. They got a little tired and made some assignment errors.
''So we'll back off a little bit and make sure they get it and once I feel they know the stuff we've installed, we'll move forward a little more.''
The Utah quarterbacks are in open competition for the starting job despite Troy Williams returning after starting 13 games in 2016. Williams and Tyler Huntley are splitting 80 percent of the reps with Alabama transfer Cooper Bateman getting the leftovers.
Williams said he's not worried about having to earn the job for a second straight year.
''It's a business at the end of the day,'' Williams said. ''I'm competing every day whether if I have the starting job or not.
''I'm feeling good about myself. Grasping the whole offense. ... Especially with the offense being progression-based. I feel a lot more comfortable just going through my progressions, not really worrying about who's going to drop the cover-2 at the snap or who's going to stay here. It's always important to know the coverage, but I feel like the progression-based reads have been a real good change for us.''
The offense puts a lot of responsibility on the quarterbacks but should also make things easier for the signal-caller as he reads the field from one side to another, going from read to read. Additionally, as the quarterback goes through the progressions, the next read is supposed to open up as defenders react to the quarterback's eyes.
Bateman is the wild card in the mix. He was a four-star prospect when he signed with Alabama, according to 247sports.com, so there's obvious intrigue with the Salt Lake native that prefers to operate from within the pocket.
''Just fighting for those reps ... I know that's part of the deal,'' Bateman said. ''I ran the same offense for four years. So, coming here my fifth year, it's hard learning a new one, but it's kind of fun to learn something new to see how different guys do different things.
''Going there and playing for Coach (Nick) Saban, you really mature and you can really learn a lot from a guy like that. And now being able to take that and apply it to this, it helps for sure.''
Taylor praised the quarterbacks for their work in the film room and believes they're in a good mental place. Now it must be translated to the field.
The Utes are banged up at running back and receiver, so there's still work to be done. The team must replace leading rusher Joe Williams and leading receiver Tim Patrick. The backs will be heavily involved in the passing game.
''Getting a feel for what their strengths are and what are the things we have to improve on,'' Taylor said. ''How they respond to competition and getting tired. And how they respond to learning the offense and what their skills are. Those things I'm learning on a daily basis.''