The NCAA tournament is over, the college basketball season has entered its “offseason,” and the transfer portal is seething across the country. We’re going to start this mailbag from Utah Utes right there.
Have a question for Utes Beat reporter Josh Newman? Send it to him via a tweet, send him a direct message on Twitter, send him an email firstname.lastname@example.org leave it in the comments section at the bottom of this article and he will answer them in his weekly mailbag.
Q: “You said getting a scorer was a top priority for Utah (I agree). Do you think a player like Gabe Madsen could develop into that player or do they need to get a transfer that has scored a lot of goals in a lower league and hope that goes through? – @Zach_Han7
A: Let’s start rewinding.
On April 11, 2021, about two weeks later Craig Smith got the job in Utah he got a commitment from UNLV transfer David Jenkins Jr.
Jenkins Jr. scored a lot in three seasons at South Dakota State and UNLV. When it’s hot, it can really accelerate. Jenkins Jr. was cast as a potential No. 1 scoring option for a Utes team that didn’t plan on scoring until the ’70s and ’80s.
I could probably write a dissertation on this, but Jenkins Jr. didn’t work in that role. He started well but the minutes ticked by. He was a DNP CD more than once, and he revisited the transfer portal as Utah’s 11-20 season concluded.
Finding gold in the portal isn’t easy, and it gets harder when you’re trying to level a guy up to the Power Six. Is it successful? Absolutely, but there are even more cases where it doesn’t work as intended, like Jenkins Jr. did.
Can Madsen evolve into this guy? It cannot be ruled out. He’s got a reach in the gym, and if he can build some muscle and diversify his game on offense, he’ll be a liability to contend with as his career progresses.
Full Disclosure: I’m not convinced the player you’re asking about is on the current list and that includes Mike Saunders Jr. and Wilguens Exacte Jr., unseen. Diving back into the portal and trying to figure it out still feels like the best course of action when you’re a Smith, but the problem with this is, well, everyone isn’t just looking for points, they’re looking for experienced points out of the portal , not just Utah.
As a reminder, Utah currently has three open scholarships for 2022-23.
Q: “Halfway through Spring Exercise, the biggest questions have been answered and the biggest questions remain?” – @rkdavidson13
A: One of the biggest questions for spring training in Utah is ours Ja’Quinden Jackson vs. Bryson Barnes for QB2substitute Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell at Linebacker, replacing Nick Ford and Bam Olaseni along the offensive line.
None of these questions have yet been answered. Kyle Whittingham didn’t come out and say who leads between Jackson and Barnes, but I took some post-practice comments as an indication that Jackson was capable of claiming that spot. However, I assume that this situation will continue, at least publicly, into August.
Spring is when you find out that two deeply and deeply matter. There’s plenty of time to sort out LB and OL and honestly no one seems particularly concerned about that. There are options and depth at both positions.
I think the one question I had that got answered is this JT Broughton is healthy and plans to start at cornerback against Clark Phillips III. Another question on this topic is what the depth at CB looks like after all.
A new question that has surfaced that we didn’t have at the start of spring training is safety. It’s Cole Bishop at one point, and while Whittingham has been pretty effusive about RJ Hubert’s game after a season-ending injury, two-time FCS All-American Clayton Isbell is on the way from the transfer portal this summer.
Q: “How aggressively do you think the Utes will be using the transfer portal leading up to next season (in all honesty it could be for football or basketball)?” – @josh_lybbert
A: Let’s focus on football for this exercise.
Whittingham wasn’t afraid to find the portal for emergency positions, particularly at quarterback, where he pulled out Cam Rising (Texas), Jake Bentley (South Carolina) and Charlie Brewer (Baylor). Two of those three didn’t work out, but that’s beside the point. If Whittingham thinks Utah is easy in one position, he’ll try in the portal.
Whittingham on Tuesday raised a question about roster management in the present day of the extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They don’t have that many grants to give because there was a backlog when they decided not to count this year (2020) as an eligibility year, which was the right decision,” Whittingham said. “You have to be very careful who you give your grants to, who you commit to and I’m sure we’ll have some Transferportal guys after the spring.
“Right now we’ll have to see how things develop. I can’t give you a great idea of what’s going to happen, but we need to make some room for fall.”
I think the last part of his answer gives a good overview of where his spirit is up to the portal. How well Utah can use the portal depends on who leaves after spring training. Personally, I was surprised that more guys didn’t hit the portal after the Rose Bowl, especially on defense, but it makes sense for players to go through the bounce ball to get a better idea of where they stand before making a decision meet.
Q: “If you were given the opportunity to start a company with Tony Soprano, Walter White, the Byrdes (Ozark), the Roys (Succession), or Bobby Axelrod (Billions), who would you choose?” – @benwilkinson
A: I’ve never seen Succession or Billions, so the Roys and Bobby Axelrod aren’t included.
You don’t do business with Tony Soprano and you definitely don’t face him. We saw how well this worked for Davey Scatino and Ramsey Sports and Outdoors, right? This is an automatic no, not much thought is required.
If Walter White wasn’t badly broken and just, say, a super smart guy with an idea, sure, maybe, but he’s made some really dubious decisions over time. Can’t trust a guy like that, doesn’t always think straight, takes too many risks, runs with a questionable crowd. I do not like it.
Marty Byrde hasn’t exactly made great decisions either, but he and Wendy certainly maneuvered around a large number of issues, which is a tick for them. They should legitimately be dead, I don’t know, a dozen times over the life of this show. Marty and Wendy are level-headed, intelligent, and obviously very good in a crisis.
The cartel is a bad look. But I’ll do business with the Byrdes on the straight and narrow track.
Q: “Any updates on Utah’s pathetic punting game? What about an elite returnee replacing Covey?” – @801Utes
A: Utah’s punt situation was a gong show last fall. Without looking up, three blocked punts I can remember between Cameron Peasley and Michael Williams, plus a fourth that was nullified on a penalty at Oregon State.
At the time, Whittingham blamed many of these problems on blocking, noting on several occasions that the exit times on some of these punts were good. Anyway, because it wasn’t good enough and it needs to get better.
Peasley and Williams are the two players currently on the list, with Whittingham saying on Tuesday it’s an open competition he would like to face this spring. That being said, just like LB, OL and other question marks, there is plenty of time to figure out the punting.
Williams had the better average last season, but on 19 fewer tries. Peasley is considered the strongest leg while Williams is considered an art directional punter.
Going up three punts quickly inside the 20 yard last season is a legitimate option. No, the All-Pac 12 quarterback won’t be the full-time player, but it’s good to know he’s there in a pinch.
Q: “Let’s talk about the other, other, round dough: donuts. It’s a Friday morning, the coffee pot is empty, where do you get the necessary fried batter mix and start the weekend in high gear?” – @Tim_Populi
A: Do you know what bothers me? Why do we have to categorize everyone as “bagel people” or “donut people”? I like bagels, I like donuts. Why do we have to label everyone? may i live a little
Am I eligible to list the best donuts in Salt Lake City if I’ve never been to Duck Donuts? Anyway, the best I’ve ever had was at Fresh Donuts & Deli on State Street. Raspberry jelly, maybe some maple bar action. Splendid. Banbury Cross also gets a nod. This place is solid, but it’s more a matter of convenience than anything. My dog once stole a Banbury Cross jelly donut off the counter which I was saving for later that day. I’m still not over it.
Full Disclosure: I’m a “bagel guy”.
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https://www.sltrib.com/sports/utah-utes/2022/04/07/utah-utes-mailbag-runnin/ The Runnin’ Utes need more points, but where are they going to come from?