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Utah football: Offense under scrutiny as Utes open practice

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(Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune) . Brian Johnson, the first-year offensive coordinator who often relied on his instinctive skills rather than scripted plays to become Utah’s winningest quarterback, says he is much more comfortable on the field working with the quarterbacks.

By Lya Wodraska

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Mar 19 2012 02:12PM
Updated Mar 19, 2012 11:53PM

Thanks to coaching changes, injuries or losses to key personnel, it seems Utah’s offense has received the most scrutiny and attention during spring ball the past several seasons.

This year is no different.

The Utes, who open spring practice Tuesday, usher in a new era for the offense as 25-year-old Brian Johnson takes the helm as the new offensive coordinator.

Under his care is an offense expected to be run by quarterback Jordan Wynn, who coaches say has recovered from his season-ending shoulder injury suffered in the fourth game of the year.

What kind of offense Johnson installs and how well Wynn can run it will likely be the biggest questions fans want to see answered over the course of 15 practices, which will culminate in the Red-White game on April 21.

However, if anyone is expecting a drastically retooled offense from what they saw a year ago when Norm Chow was making the calls, they’ll probably be disappointed.

Johnson said he isn’t concerned with running one type of offense or another.

"People get caught up in whether it’s a pro set or spread, and we want elements of both offenses," he said. "To be honest, I’m most concerned with developing and putting players in the best positions to be successful.

"It’s not going to be that much different than what we’ve done," Johnson said. "Spring ball is for teaching fundamentals and techniques and working on the two-deep and moving people around to the right places."

As for Wynn, he remains the No. 1 quarterback, Johnson said. But newcomers Chase Hansen and Travis Wilson will get a look, too. The Utes also return Jon Hays, who quarterbacked the Utes after Wynn suffered his non-throwing shoulder injury against Washington on Oct. 1.

"Jordan is our starting quarterback, but in this league you have to feel good about the depth of the team and we feel we are in a good position depth-wise," Johnson said of the quarterbacks. "We have some talented freshmen coming in, but it’s a dynamic group."

The Utes also have a deep group at running back with standout John White returning and signee Kelvin York in camp.

Defensively, the Utes lost several key personnel, including end Derrick Shelby and linebackers Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez, but they return defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and the majority of the secondary.

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