#35 Utah Football 2017 Preview


Utah Utes


Overall Rank: #35

#7 Pac-12

There is no question about the level of consistency that the University of Utah football team has brought to the table in recent years. The Utes will always be physical on both sides of the line of scrimmage with the running game and their pass rush. Special teams are always elite as Mitch Wishnosky won another Ray Guy Award for the program as the nation’s top punter. Now, if new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor can get the passing game rolling, then Utah will be even tougher to deal with in 2017.
2016 Record: 9-4, 5-4
2016 Bowl: Foster Farms Bowl vs. Indiana, 26-24 W
Coach: Kyle Whittingham (104-50 at Utah, 104-50 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Troy Taylor
Defensive Coordinator: Morgan Scalley
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zack Moss, RB, 382 yards
Passing: Troy Williams, QB, 2,757 yards
Receiving: Raelon Singleton, WR, 464 yards
Tackles: Chase Hansen, SS, 90
Sacks: Filipe Mokofisi, DT, 5.0
Interceptions: Chase Hansen, SS, 3
Other Key Returnees: P Mitch Wishnosky, RB Armand Shyne, RB Devonta’e Henry-Cole, RT Salesi Uhatafe, DT Lowell Lotulelei, DE Kylie Fitts, MLB Sunia Tauteoli, Kavika Luafatasaga,
Key Losses:  RB Joe Williams, OG Issac Asiata, C J.J. Dielman, OT Sam Tevi, OLB Pita Taumoepenu, OL Garrett Bowles, DB Brian Allen, DB Marcus Williams, K Andy Phillips
Troy Williams had some excellent moments in 2016 when he led three straight touchdown drives in the win over USC. Williams also had some moments where he was all over the place as Washington, Oregon and Colorado were able to limit the damage in the passing game. In order for the Utes to contend for the Pac-12 South title they need Williams to stop playing quarterback like it’s a roller coaster ride at a county fair and be more consistent. Running back and offensive line also have questions to be answered as Joe Williams and his 1,407 rushing yards are off to the NFL. Zack Moss is the leading returning rusher at 382 yards and will be pushed by Armand Shyne and Devonta’e Henry-Cole. The offensive line lost four starters and that is going to take some time for this reloaded unit to gel right away. Raelon Singleton should be able to catch about 50-60 passes, if not more, in this new scheme as there will be a need to stretch opposing defenses in the passing game.
This unit should be able to still pressure the passer at a high level as Filipo Mokofisi and Lowell Lotulelei will lead the defensive line in 2017. Sunia Tauteoli and Kavika Luafatasaga are at back as part of linebacker group that had to go through some growing pains in 2016, but their senior leadership should help this unit grow a great deal this season. Now, in the secondary, it will be interesting as Chase Hansen is the best returning all-around player in that group, but after that there is work to be done. Opposing offenses threw for 254.3 yards per game in 2016, which is too high of a number to contend for a Pac-12 championship.
The Bottom Line:
One underrated question mark for Utah in 2017 is the placekicker position as Andy Phillips is gone and it will be up to Hayes Hicken to pick up the slack. After opening with North Dakota at home the Utes will head to Provo for another edition of the Holy War against BYU. If Utah can win, it should set them up to be undefeated heading into a two game stretch against Stanford and USC that will swing the direction of their season. Bottom line, this should be another eight win type of regular season for the Utes as there will probably be some up and down moments offensively that will cost Utah a game this season that they are expected to win.
Projected Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 214.0 (32nd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 216.7 (78, 9)
Total Offense: 430.7 (51, 7)
Scoring Offense: 29.8 (60, 8)
Rushing Defense: 128.7 (22, 1)
Pass Defense: 254.3 (101, 8)
Total Defense: 383.0 (48, 6)
Scoring Defense: 23.9 (33, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.46 (28.2)
Sacks: 3.31 (6, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.08 (63, 5)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#49 Lowell Lotulelei
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#152 Jaylon Johnson
#198 Bryan Thompson