Joe Williams

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.

UCLA takes four-point lead on No. 13 Utah at the half

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UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Duarte on the game’s opening drive to give the visiting Bruins an early lead in Salt Lake City on No. 13 Utah. UCLA owns a 10-6 lead at the half, putting them one half away from gaining control of the Pac-12 South heading into their final game of the season.

Utah took its first offensive possession of the game into the red zone but Joe Williams had the ball knocked out of his hands by UCLA’s Kene Orjioke and Randall Goforth recovered the loose ball. It was the second turnover of the drive for the Utes, who had a Travis Wilson interception overturned by a pass interference penalty on UCLA. Goforth, as it turned out, was the one who came away with the interception. Williams is taking on the task of running the football as Utah’s primary running back with Devontae Booker out of action this week.

UCLA will gain control of the Pac-12 South with a win today against Utah. With a win, UCLA would then play for the Pac-12 South championship next week against USC., regardless of what the Trojans end up doing in Eugene against Oregon.