Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Utah Utes

Utah Utes
What was an overall successful season for the Utes had to be considered as a bit of a disappointment for some, as injury issues and just plain bad luck mounted to cost the Utes four losses, and had them fighting for a win against what should have been an over matched Indiana team in the bowl game. Kyle Whittingham is one of the A list coaches in the PAC-12, and under his guidance, the Utes are rolling into the 2017 season trying to get healthy, and push forward. Will they have enough to push past Colorado, or USC in the South this fall?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Troy Williams is back at QB this fall, and while not the perfect QB, he is quite good at times. He passed for 2757 yards and 15 TDs last season, but did manage to toss eight INTs. His accuracy and turnovers need to improve, but as he goes, so does the Ute offense in 2017. Williams did manage to add five more rushing TDs last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
There are questions across the board for the Utes on offense, starting at RB, where Joe Williams, who was virtually pulled off of his couch to fill in for injuries last season, is gone after filling in aptly to rush for 1407 yards and 10 TDs. The projected replacements have not a ton of experience or production behind them in Zack Moss and Jordan Howard. Either of them could explode this season, but they are not known quantities, and that is a measure for concern.
The receivers are thin on production and history as well. Raelon Singleton, Demari Simpkins, and Siaosi Wilson are slated to start, but caught a combined 61 passes between them last fall. There is virtually no depth behind them at that point, and that will have to be developed as the season progresses.
The line lost some serious talent after last season, and a pair of sophomores will be starting in LG Darrin Paulo and Johnny Capra. Three more sophomores are on the two deep, so again, experience is a relative thing that will be in development as the season progresses.
Andy Phillips, one of the most successful kickers in college football over the last few years, has moved on as well. Hayes Hicken, a sophomore, is slated to take his place.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Utes will be rock solid at DT this fall with the return of Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi. The two combined for 16.5 TFLs last fall, and will probably be the most disruptive interior linemen on any defense in the conference.
The LB corps will be a major strength as well this fall, as both Sunia Tauteoli and David Luafatasaga both return. They combined for 109 tackles last fall, and will project to start when camp breaks in the 4-2-5 defense. The Utes also return junior Cody Barton at ROVER, who finished with 66 tackles last fall, good for second on the team.
Mitch Wishnowski is back as the Punter, and has a legendary leg. He averaged well over 47 yards per punt last fall, and should be noted as being the best Punter the conference has to offer.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The DE spots are an anomaly this fall. Kylie Fitts has seen his career derail based on a transfer and on injuries, and played in just two games last season. If he is healthy, he could be one of the better ends in the league, but he has not been able to stay on the field. Bradley Anae has promise, but is just s sophomore, and played in just six games last fall.
The secondary is a major area of concern, as this is a unit that needs to come together, and has very little history behind them. The best of the bunch, by far, is SS Chase Hanson, who finished last season leading the team in tackles with 90 (54 were solos). He also defended nine passes, created two QB hurries, and forced three fumbles. There were overwhelming personnel losses from the secondary after last season, so this unit is in a bit of a rebuild. There are also two freshmen and a sophomore on the two deep, so depth is not a luxury here.
2017 Schedule: 8/31 North Dakota, 9/9 at BYU, 9/16 San Jose State, 9/22 at Arizona, 10/7 Stanford, 10/14 at USC, 10/21 Arizona State, 10/28 at Oregon, 11/3 UCLA, 11/11 Washington State, 11/18 at Washington, 11/25 Colorado
Final Overview
Two of the three non con games are wins off the top against North Dakota and San Jose State, but BYU, as always, will be a tough out for the Utes. The conference schedule, however, is unforgiving for a team trying to rebuild certain areas on both sides of the football. Whittingham has talent here, but a ton of it is inexperienced, and that could cause some bumps in the road this fall as the new parts try to gel together. Nothing would shock me about the Utes finishing as high as second in the league, but they could also slide to third or fourth, depending on what progress is made at Colorado and UCLA.

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