Salt Lake City, UT.
FOOTBALL IS BACK. Kind of. Today marked the return of the great game in the form of the annual Spring Football game right here in Salt Lake City. The Utes fielded a Red Team, and a White Team, and Coach Kirby opted to put his starting offense against his starting defense, because let's face it, it's no fun if they are playing on the same team in Spring.
All eyes were firmly on sophomore Quarterback Finn Leonard as fans around the city and beyond are hoping to see him make a significant Sophomore Leap this year and lead the Utes to a more successful season. We just need to win more than two games... a number that has plagued us over the last two seasons.
Finn Leonard did not disappoint. It was an all out air assault as Leonard threw for 325 yards, and a clean 3 TD's to 0 picks. A great day at the offense for the young talisman, and his second year chemistry with star receiver Zain Hyde looks to be taking shape nicely. Sophomore running back Bronson Love also cracked 100 rushing yards which will certainly please coaching staff as he struggled mightily last year as a true freshman.
We caught up with Coach Kirby on the sidelines after the game to hear his thoughts:
"It's awesome to be back here coaching my boys, and i've got to say, it feels good to be on the winning team for a change."
FeElS GoOd tO bE On ThE WiNnInG TeAm
Coach smiles, it's clear that the comment is made in jest.
"On a serious note, today felt great. We wanted to try a bunch of new things out and we got a lot more in detail with our gameplanning. Finn is a great kid and his enthusiasm for the game makes life as a coach pretty easy. Today was the start of his journey this season. I'm super excited to see this Finn / Zain duo continue to grow throughout the year."
We then went on to ask Coach about his teams aims for the season:
"Y'know, it's a difficult question because we have to be realistic here. We play in a fantastic conference, with some great teams, and as a unit we are still building. Right now, honestly, our aim will be to get to three wins, and to get there as quickly as possible. That shows growth and from there it will give us to opportunity to continue to adjust our goals as far as we possibly can. I'm not going to stand here and say we're going to the play-offs, because it would be total false promises. It's possible, anything is, but i'm not in the game of setting unrealistic expectations. What I can say though, is that we are building a very strong roster and locker room culture, and we have a lot more pieces this year than we have the last two years so am I confident we can have our best year yet? You're damn right I am."
In regards to his defense, Coach voiced his opinions:
"The defense was at virtual full strength barring a couple of our new highly touted recruits that I wanted to give valuable snaps against the starting offense before they redshirt this year. I was impressed, especially with Freddie Lawrence. Ha'Sean was great too but I had already had a chat with him prior and he was aware that he was not going to be redshirting this year and that he would in fact be starting. Freddie will however be redshirting. It was great to see him play well and i'm stoked to see the pairing of him and Ha'Sean terrorising offenses together in 2025."
So, what next?
"I think i'm going to go have a cold one, put my feet up, and watch the NFLHC Draft that's coming up soon. It looks set to be a good one, I must say."
It was all smiles around the Rice-Eccles Stadium. A fun day for players, coaches, and fans, and the vibe going into the new season is that of Optimism. This team has the talent to take the game to anyone and we can't wait to see them get to work.