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.
A season that was derailed early on by injury concerns will now end with Alan Bowman redshirting the 2019 season. Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells confirmed on Monday Bowman will redshirt the remainder of the 2019 season to preserve a year of eligibility. The decision is not much of a surprise given the current status of the Red Raiders offense and Bowman’s injury history. Maverick McIvor, who has not appeared in a game this season due to an offseason foot injury, will also redshirt the remainder of the season.
In mid-September, Bowman was said to miss “several weeks” due to a shoulder injury. Although Bowman has now been medically cleared to play for the Red Raiders, the situation in Lubbock appears to be a good opportunity to protect the shoulder a little more unless absolutely needed. The decision to redshirt was Bowman’s, according to multiple reports, and Wells agreed that was in the best interest of all involved.
Bowman appeared in three games this season for the Red Raiders, leaving him one more game to play without jeopardizing a year of eligibility. Texas Tech could still play Bowman in one more game and not have this season count against his redshirt year under the NCAA’s revised redshirt rules from a year ago.
In his three games played, Bowman has completed 101 of 154 attempts for 1,020 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions. Jett Duffey has led the offense in Bowman’s absence, and he has performed admirably with 1,774 yards and 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions over seven games.
McIvor is a freshman, so he will still have four years of eligibility beginning with the 2020 season.
Houston cornerback Ka’Darian Smith has been suspended by the football program after he was charged for aggravated assault for an incident occurring last week. Smith admitted to the assault to police and was released from jail after posting bond.
“We are aware of the serious allegations regarding Ka’Darian Smith,” a UH Athletics spokesperson said, according to The Daily Cougar. “He has been suspended indefinitely from the Houston football program. We will have no further comment at this time.”
According to police records, the incident leading to the charge occurred last Wednesday, Nov. 6. The alleged victim was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries to the upper body and the head.
Smith responded to a tweet from Houston Chronicle reporter Joseph Duarte, there was more to the story about the alleged victim. According to Smith, the man broke into his room and was stealing from Smith.
How long Smith remains suspended may depend on how long the legal process takes to play out, which is fairly standard for incidents like these.
Oklahoma had to hold their breath to escape this weekend’s game against Iowa State with a win, but the close call took a toll on the Sooners moving forward. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley announced on Monday running back Trey Sermon and defensive lineman Kenneth Mann will miss the remainder of the 2019 season with season-ending injuries.
Riley confirmed both players suffered injuries in the win over Iowa State that will require surgery. That will bring an early end to the collegiate career of Mann, a redshirt senior, but sermon will be eligible to return to the Sooners next season.
Sermon was Oklahoma’s third-leading rusher behind Jalen Hurts and Kennedy Brooks with 385 yards and four touchdowns in nine games this season. With Sermon no longer able to be a part of the running game, Oklahoma may rely more on Brooks while continuing to allow their quarterback to do what he needs with his feet. But this could also lead to some opportunities for Rhamondre Stevenson to continue increasing his role in the mix. Stevenson has 369 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season and figures to see his rushing totals see a slight bump for the remainder of the year as a result of the injury to Sermon.
“Will definitely create some opportunities for others and for us to continue to move on as a team and opportunities for other people to step up and grow, and that’s what has to happen in these moments,” Riley said when addressing how the team will move forward without their injured players, according to Sooner Scoop.
Mann played more of a reserve role and recorded five tackles, 1.5 TFL, and one sack this season.
Thursday night will be Pittsburgh night in the world of football, much to the chagrin of Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi. In a somewhat odd scheduling coincidence, the Pitt Panthers will be playing in primetime this Thursday night at home against North Carolina at the same time the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing on the road against the Cleveland Browns. Narduzzi, knowing not everybody has access to a second screen, is justifiably upset about having his team playing at the same time as the Steelers.
“They have to start to look and say ‘What makes sense for the city of Pittsburgh?’ and that obviously wasn’t done,” Narduzzi said when meeting with the media on Monday, according to Trib Live. Narduzzi went on to point out the Pitt football schedule was set back in January, while the NFL schedule for the Steelers was released a few months later.
“You look at it and say it’s not good for the ACC playing on the same night as an NFL franchise in your same city,” Narduzzi pointed out (again, via Trib Live). And to his point, Narduzzi is right that it does the ACC no favors to be going up head-to-head against the NFL. Ever since the NFL took on a full season’s worth of Thursday night football, college football programming and ratings has suffered and been sacrificed because it makes no business sense for a broadcast partner to attempt throwing up a college football game against the NFL. It just pours salt on the wounds when you have to go up against the NFL team you share a stadium with.
When it comes to TV ratings, the NFL will triumph over college football every day of the week, say Thursday, for example. And in a city that is in love with the Steelers, the Panthers likely will be playing in the background for most of the Pittsburgh viewing area on Thursday night. And then, of course, there is the attendance concern. The Steelers and Panthers each play in Heinz Field and Pitt struggles enough filling up the seats unless a major opponent like Penn State or Notre Dame is making a visit. Having to try convincing people to come out on a cold Thursday night to watch the Panthers when they can be in their homes watching the Steelers with some comfy pants on and a cup of hot apple cider is a tough sell for Narduzzi and the Panthers.
This would be similar to the Temple Owls playing at home the same time the Philadelphia Eagles are playing, or USF playing when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing. Unfortunately, as Narduzzi confessed, there is not a thing a coach can do about the scheduling of the games, as TV partners tend to wave the baton and conferences are reduced to following along as those TV partners wish.