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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #27 Utah

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 21, 2016

#27 Utah Utes

2015 Recap:

A 10-3 record for the Utes in what can be described as a successful season, yet it could have been even better. Utah got out of the gates 6-0 scoring wins against the likes of Michigan and Oregon, Utah lost all three games in conference stumbling against USC, UCLA and Arizona in OT. The team did it differently then many had projected, relying more on the #2 defense in the PAC-12 vice the offense and the running of Devontae Booker.


Coaching:
Kyle Whittingham is a good coach and someone I feel is on a number of radars and might be feeling he has achieved all there is to achieve at Utah. Call it a gut instinct, this is a coach who may be on the move by seasons end with another successful run after challenging or even winning their division in the PAC-12.


Offense

There is a lot of love coming the Utes way for a team with a new quarterback and running back to start the season. Travis Wilson and his 24 career victories are gone as Utah now turns to junior Brandon Cox. Cox has not been able to stay healthy or stay on the field for an extended period of time and there was a period where the Utes were using different quarterbacks during some Wilson struggles and when he was dealing with injuries of his own. Freshman Tyler Huntley comes in with a huge amount of fanfare and could see the field on a platoon basis for Utah. Joe Williams had close to 500 yards spelling Devontae Booker last season and filling in for him in times of injury. The real testiment to Utah and why they will still be effective offensively is the way they replenish their offensive line. Utah is led by a couple of solid prospects in seniors J.J. Dielman and Isaac Asiata. As usual the line is deep and heavy. The projected starters for Utah average 322 pounds and can move.
 

Best Draft Prospects: J.J. Dielman OT 3rd Round 2017.

                                       Isaac Asiata OG 4th/5th Round 2017


Defense

The defense has a number of playmakers back, especially in the secondary. Morgan Scalley is the new coordinator and a former Ute defesive player himself. Utah has an emerging star in the secondary that could leave for the NFL after this season a year early in free safety Marcus Williams. Williams intercepted five passes for Utah a season ago and broke up countless others. Dominique Hatfield and Reginald Porter are back at cornerback and the seniors bring a ton of experience. This is very important as the PAC-12 consistently has the top overall quarterback play of any conference at the FBS level. Kylie Fitts and Lowell Lotulelei are NFL talents along the line and Lotulelei is another perspective 1st rounder who could leave school early and follow his brother, Star, into the NFL. It's a pretty safe bet that Utah will lead the Pac-12 in a number of defensive categories at seasons end.

Best Draft Prospects: Lowell Lotuelei DT 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration).

                                      Marcus Williams S 1st/2nd Round 2018 (Early Declaration).


Special Teams:

Utah boasted the best kicker/punter combo in 2015 and half of that duo is still around with senior kicker Andy Phillips back to add to his 23 field goal total from 2015. Beyong 40 yards Phillips was a very respectable 8-12 and he was perfect from within 40 yard range, Phillips could be one of the few kickers/punters drafted in the upcoming class. Mitch Wishnowsky is the new punter and Utah should not see a huge dropoff after Tom Hackett and his departure for the NFL. The return game is give and take with Utah, they are usually near the top of the conference in average and big plays on special teams but they seem to give up their share of big plays as well.


Schedule:

Oregon, Washington and UCLA are near the back of the sachedule as Utah tries to play better down the stretch than they did a season ago. many of the toughest opponents for Utah come to their house so the schedule is in their favor. If we have learned one thing over the last 2-3 seasons, it's that the Pac-12 is anything but predictable.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

Utah is cranking out prospects at a consistent rate and we aren't talking about run-of-the-mill late round picks or undrafted free agents. Utah had been known primarily for the lineman they produced but we are seeing more skills positions drfated out of Utah. Last season was the "breakout" year in the Pac-12 but bigger things could still beon the horizon for the Utes.

DJ Boyer