Explanation of the drawing above (another fine piece of artwork by professional artist Michael Hanaoka of Las Vegas):
Utah, although nicknamed the Utes after the Indian tribe, utilize an eagle mascot named “Swoop”. The moose is a parody of what SBNation.com published on April Fool’s Day about the school changing its nickname to the Moose.
Why not the Fighting Moose? Certainly original. Bullwinkle the Moose and former Yankees first baseman Moose Skowron would be proud.
As for the symbolism behind potentially changing the nickname from the Utes, not gonna touch that here. That’s for another blog site.
Greg Hansen of The Arizona Daily Star wrote an interesting column Thursday about Utah having grown men, a few of them 25 years old because they served two-year Mormon missions.
This bit of information from Hansen stuck out the most, at least to me: Utah’s best defensive player is Trevor Reilly, who is 25. Arizona’s promising freshman linebacker Scooby Wright is 18. Reilly graduated from high school eight years ago. Wright was in the fifth grade.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez made it a point to discuss that during Monday’s press conference. Later that afternoon during a show on Sirius/XM that was the first topic Rodriguez discussed.
“A lot of people talk about young players being inexperienced but I think the biggest factor is strength,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying by Hansen. “You’re not as strong when you’re 18 or 19 as you are when you’re 22, 23, or 25.”
The Salt Lake Tribune offered a rebuttal to Hansen’s column by athletic director Chris Hill, who mentioned the Utes may be older but that does not make them better.
“It’s something people tease us about all the time, but it has been like that forever,” Hill told the Tribune about the grown men on the roster. “You can complain on anything. A lot of times these guys come back (from their two-year missions) and they aren’t ready to play, but people don’t see that side of it.”
I understand Rodriguez’s concern, but is the age difference really a factor? Was it a factor when UCLA and Oregon State, who are without 24- and 25-year-olds, went to Salt Lake City and beat Utah? Arizona outlasted Utah last season in Salt Lake City, scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter in the Wildcats’ 34-24 victory. Nobody talked about Utah having grown men at that time.
Rodriguez should just skip the subject.
Rodriguez was also critical of Arizona’s special teams play after the Wildcats’ punting and place-kicking were lacking in the loss at USC.
Utah, meanwhile, is one of the best in the nation when it comes to those categories.
The Utes’ sophomore punter Tom Hackett leads the Pac-12 and ranks No. 22 in the nation in punting, averaging 44.1 yards on 33 punts. He has a Pac-12 high nine punts of 50-plus yards (long of 61). Hackett also leads the Pac-12 in punts inside the 20 (14), including three inside the 10.
Andy Phillips is one of those grown men Rodriguez is leery about. He is a 24-year-old redshirt freshman. He is 11-of-11 with his field goal tries and 27-of-27 in PATs. He is a former member of the U.S. Olympic ski team.
Hackett, a former Australian Rules Football player, is 21.