Utah Utes

Utah running back Joe Williams (28) gets upended by defensive back Boobie Hobbs (1) during Utah's Red-White spring NCAA college football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Saturday, April 23, 2016. (Chris Samuels/The Deseret News via AP)  SALT LAKE TRIBUNE OUT; MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT; TV OUT
Chris Samuels/The Deseret News via AP

Utah offense looks to find more balance in 2016

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The strength of Utah the past couple of seasons has come on defense and in the running game. That recipe may not be too much different this fall, but the Utes are looking to balance things out offensively and get the passing game to pick up some of the slack. Following Utah’s spring game on Saturday, head coach Kyle Whittingham noted the offense could have a slightly different look this upcoming season.

“It’s not a 30-carry a game Devontae Booker situation,” Whittingham said, referring to the bulk of the offense placed in the hands of Utah’s leading rusher a year ago. “We’re going to spread the ball around a little bit more.”

Utah’s spring game showed more wrinkles from the passing game as the Utes look to replace Travis Wilson. Junior Brandon Cox, JUCO transfer Troy Williams (a former four-star recruit at Washington) and freshman Tyler Huntley continue to make their case for the starting nod, although Williams is believed to be the eventual pick. Williams has missed a big chunk of the spring due to injury, giving the others some extra snaps in the spring. Finding stability at the quarterback situation will be essential, at least until Utah finds a running back ready to step up and take on the leading role the way Booker previously did. For now, it appears Joe Williams may be the most likely to take on the bulk of the rushing attempts in the fall. He is certainly thinking and talking like the job is his to lose.

“Going into this spring ball, that was my mentality,” Williams said. “I’ve got the mentality that it’s my job and I’m not going to let anyone take it.”

Running backs coach Dennis Erickson said Williams and Troy McCormick will each see playing time in the fall, and both could be on the field at the same time.

Utah’s running game ranked fourth in the Pac-12 last season with 183 rushing yards per game and an average of 43.92 rushing attempts per game. Devontae Booker was responsible for 26.8 rushing attempts per game and 126.1 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Travis Wilson was the team’s second-leading rusher as well.

New Pac-12 policy to prohibit transfers with misconduct issues

BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 05:  The Colorado Golden Buffalo Marching Band performs prior to facing the Oregon Ducks at Folsom Field on October 5, 2013 in Boulder, Colorado. The Ducks defeated the Buffs 57-16.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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In May of 2015, the SEC announced that it had enacted a rule that would bar conference schools from accepting transfers who had been disciplined for “serious misconduct” at that student-athlete’s previous institution, with “serious misconduct” defined as sexual assault, domestic violence and sexual violence.  Nearly a year later, a fellow Power Five member is taking a similar tack.

Saturday, the Pac-12 announced that its presidents and chancellors — the Pac-12 CEO Group — have “approved a policy prohibiting [future transfers] from receiving athletic aid or participating in athletics if the transfer student-athlete is unable to re-enroll at a previous institution due to student misconduct.” For the purpose of this new policy, “student misconduct” is defined as “assault, harassment, academic fraud, and other violations of campus behavior conduct policies.”

The policy further stipulates that “[i]t will not apply to academic performance reasons unrelated to misconduct.”

As part of this new policy, transfers into any Pac-12 institution in any sport will be required to self-disclose whether they would be eligible to re-enroll at the university from which they are transferring. It will be up to each member institution to institute an appeals process for those potential transfers who are deemed ineligible under the new policy.

The conference itself will not play a role in handling appeals.

“This is an important step to strengthen our student-athlete transfer admission processes and to address the safety of our students,” said UCLA chancellor and CEO Group president Gene Block.

Delshawn McClellon transferring from Utes for final season

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Delshawn McClellon #10 of the Utah Utes catches a touchdown pass in the end zone against safety Trent Matthews #16 of the Colorado State Rams during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 20, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Another day, another senior deciding to use his final season of eligibility elsewhere.

The latest to do as much is Delshawn McClellon, who took to Instagram Tuesday to confirm that he has decided to leave Utah and finish his collegiate career at an undetermined locale. While the wide receiver gave no reason in the post for his decision, it’s likely based in part at seeking a better opportunity for more playing time.

McClellon will be leaving the Utes as a graduate, meaning he could play immediately in 2016 if another FBS school is his next stop.

You have been good to me Utah, met some real people and created great memories over the past four years. Couldn’t be more thankful for them helping me out with my situation years back. Crazy to think I’ll be suiting up with someone else next season but, I got to do what’s best for me.

“You have been good to me Utah, met some real people and created great memories over the past four years,” the receiver wrote on the social media website. “Couldn’t be more thankful for them helping me out with my situation years back. Crazy to think I’ll be suiting up with someone else next season but, I got to do what’s best for me.”

McClellon, who’s listed in his official bio as Utah’s fastest player (4.37 40), played in 31 games the last three years after redshirting as a true freshman.  The California native finishes his Utes career with eight receptions for 110 yards.

Utah gives Kyle Whittingham two-year contract extension

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2015, file photo, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham looks on in the second half during an NCAA college football game against Colorado, in Salt Lake City. Utah plays BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
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Following a 10-3 season that saw Utah climb in the rankings and come closer to competing for a Pac-12 title, Utah has agreed to extend the contract of head coach Kyle Whittingham by two years. The newly extended contract for Whittingham now runs through the 2020 season, and Whittingham receives a nice raise as a result. Whittingham will be paid $3.3 million per year during the course of the contract.

“We are excited about the contract extension for Coach Whittingham and look forward to continued success in the Pac-12 Conference under his leadership,” Utah director of athletics Dr. Chris Hill said in a released statement.“

“I am grateful for the support and commitment shown by Chris Hill and President Pershing with this contract extension. It gives further stability to our football program and what we are trying to accomplish,” said Whittingham. “We are excited about the future here at Utah and the recruiting class we will sign next Wednesday.”

Just as noted in an earlier story today about Notre Dame extending the contract of Brian Kelly, the timing of this announcement is pretty perfect. It gives Whittingham some extra job security he can show to recruits still mulling a decision to play for Utah for the next four years.

Based on 2015 coaching salaries, Utah will now make Whittingham the Pac-12’s third highest-paid coach in the conference, trailing Washington’s Chris Petersen ($3.4 million) and UCLA’s Jim Mora ($3.35 million). That standing could quickly change at any time though depending on what other schools do with their salaries. For the sake of comparison, Stanford’s David Shaw is among the lowest-paid coaches in the Pac-12, earning $2.2 million per year, third lowest in the conference according to 2015 salaries despite winning three Pac-12 championships over the last five years. It should also be noted USC does not disclose their salary info, although it should be expected Clay Helton is not getting paid as lucrativly as the other coaches with a longer track record as a head coach.

Whittingham is second in Utah history for coaching victories with 94, trailing only Ike Armstrong’s 141 wins from 1925 through 1949. He has coached Utah to a record of 94-46, which includes a strong 8-1 bowl record and four top 25 finishes. Whittingham has also guided the program through a successful move from the Mountain West Conference into the Pac-12, and has shown the ability to build a team that can win in the new power conference home of the program. Utah got off to a strong start last season and climbed the polls to as high as No. 3 in the AP poll, but the Utes hit a wall down the stretch and lost some key Pac-12 games to prevent them from competing for the Pac-12 championship. The improvement in a division thought to be loaded with competition did not fly under the radar.

SEC, Ohio State tops on Carolina, Denver Super Bowl rosters

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29:  Former Tennesse quarterback Peyton Manning and current quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts is honored alongside his former college coach Phillip Fulmer before the start of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on October 29, 2005 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Cam Newton may be hurtling toward history, but the former Auburn quarterback will not be the lone player representing the SEC in next month’s Super Bowl.  In fact, he’s far, far from it.

As you may have heard, Newton’s Carolina Panthers are set to square off with Peyton Manning‘s Denver Broncos in the 50th Super Bowl Feb. 3.  Manning and Newton are two of and FBS-best 30 former SEC players who are on the two teams’ rosters, which includes those on the 53-man, reserved/injured list, practice squad, reserved/suspended by commissioner and reserve/future squad.

The Pac-12 is next with 23, followed by the Big Ten (21) and ACC (17).  The final Power Five conference, the Big 12, has 10, three less than the Mountain West’s 13.  The AAC, with eight, is the only Group of Five league to come close to double digits.  The MAC, meanwhile, is the only conference to be shutout, while all of the other divisions in the NCAA combined for 18 players.

Nearly every SEC team is represented in this year’s big game, the lone exception being Vanderbilt.  Of the dozen schools in the Pac-12, only Arizona and Washington State are missing.  Both the ACC and Big Ten have 11 of their 14 teams in the game, the lone exceptions being Clemson, Louisville and Virginia Tech for the former and Illinois, Minnesota and Rutgers for the latter.

One of those B1G schools that’s in, Nebraska, has had at least one player on a Super Bowl roster for 23 straight years, the longest active streak for any FBS program.

Ohio State easily outdistances individual schools with seven, three more than the four each for Auburn, Georgia Tech, Oregon State and Tennessee.  Alabama, Arizona State, Colorado State, Georgia, Nevada, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M, USC and Utah.

A total of 20 schools have two players each, including Coastal Carolina, the only non-FBS program in the group.  The other 19 includes Arkansas, Boise State, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, North Carolina, San Diego State, South Carolina, Stanford, Troy, Tulane, Washington and Wisconsin.