SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah held its annual red-white game Saturday, with the red team coming away with a 20-10 victory.
The red-white game signals the end of the spring practices for the Utah football program. Several younger players showed off their talent in an attempt to move up on the depth chart in fall. Although the spring game doesn’t showcase a full roster, the following are some takeaways from the spring game.
Devonta’e Henry-Cole emerging at running back
Devontae’e Henry Cole had a great spring and has emerged as a viable option at the running back position this fall. Henry-Cole started off the game with four rushes for 30 yards and two receptions for 12 yards. He was the driving factor in the red team’s ability to move the ball well on the first drive, capping it off with a 2-yard rushing touchdown.
Henry-Cole finished the game with 50 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. He added four receptions for 23 yards. Although Henry-Cole will likely fall behind Zack Moss, who left the game early due to an injured arm, and Armand Shyne, there is room for him to make an impact and continue to improve his stock in fall.
Last year as a freshman, Henry-Cole had some early attention surrounding him in fall camp. He’s going to be one to watch this fall.
Basic defense shows little
Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley said the team ran a basic defense in the red-white game, as would be expected, but that there were several players, particularly in the secondary that stood out. Julian Blackmon, Casey Hughes and Corrion Ballard, who joined the team as a junior college transfer, each showcased their talent Saturday and look to be strong candidates for a starting role in the fall.
However, the secondary will get a significant boost with its four-star freshmen recruits joining in the fall. The secondary will continue to be a fun position group to watch in the fall. Utah lost several talented athletes in the secondary last year, but as it stands, the secondary should be able to pick up where the team left off last year and continue to challenge opposing offenses.
Offensive production is still to be determined
Although all position groups are hard to judge in totality with several key players watching from the sideline, the offense is the hardest to judge where it is at moving into fall. All four quarterbacks — Troy Williams, Tyler Huntley, Cooper Bateman and Drew Lisk — all had their respective strengths, but the offense was limited in what it was able to do, particularly at offensive line.
Lisk finished the day with the best stat line — 118 yards on 7-of-15 throwing and one touchdown — but will be third or fourth on the depth chart. Williams and Huntley each moved the ball, but it was a basic offense without a full arsenal of players available. Additionally, it’s hard to get a sense of what new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor will run in a basic game.
With that being said, Demari Simpkins continues to be a standout player at receiver and will likely develop into an even better player by fall time. His ability to bring down the ball despite opposing pressure was on display Saturday and will likely continue through fall. Troy McCormick, too, is emerging as a strong slot receiver, adding some nice depth to the receiving corp.
Utah will continue to be strong on defense, with many of its star players returning in fall to showcase their talent. With Lowell Lotulelei and Kylie Fitts up front, mixed with Chase Hansen in the back, Utah has the veteran leadership it needs to remain competitive on the defensive side of the ball.
As for the offense and finding consistency in special teams, that will be a harder task, simply because there is still a lot of unknowns. Mitch Wishnowsky will remain a dominant force punting the ball, but place kicking will be in question until there can be some more consistency on the field.
NOTE: The following players were held out of the spring game Saturday: Jackson Barton, Alec Dana, Sione Fakailoatonga, Bapa Falemaka, Lo Falemaka, Kylie Fitts, Harrison Handley, Chase Hansen, Alani Havili-Katoa, Chad Hekking, Cody Ippolito, Lowell Lotulelei, Kavika Luafatasaga, Filipo Mokofisi, Ty Murrell, Darrin Paulo, Scott Peck, Marcus Sanders-Williams, Armand Shyne, Tyrone Smith, Salesi Uhatafe, and Mason Woodward.