#15 Utah Football 2019 Preview

Utah Utes
Overall Rank: #15
#3 Pac 12
 Utah Logo
Utah heads into the 2019 season with very high expectations as they are looking to repeat as champions of the Pac-12 South Division. The Utes are always physical on defense, one of the best in the country on special teams and bring back just about every skill player on an offense that showed some fun potential at times last season prior to Tyler Huntley’s injury. Head Coach Kyle Whittingham has methodically built up the Utah program ever since they moved to the Pac-12 and now has it locked in to be a contender on an annual basis.
2018 Record: 9-5, 6-3
2018 Bowl: Holiday Bowl vs. Northwestern (20--31 L)
Coach: Kyle Whittingham, (120-61 at Utah, 120-61 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Andy Ludwig
Defensive Coordinator: Morgan Scalley
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zack Moss, RB, 1,096 yards
Passing: Tyler Huntley, QB, 1,788 yards
Receiving: Britain Covey, WR, 637 yards
Tackles: Bradlee Anae, DE, 51
Sacks: Bradlee Anae, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Jaylon Johnson, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees:  TE Cole Fotheringham, WR Demari Simpkins, LT Darrin Paulo, C Orlando Umana, , RT Nick Ford, DT Leki Fotu, DT John Pensini, DE Maxs Tupai, NB Javelin Guidry, FS Julian Blackmon, RB Armand Shyne, RB Devonta’e Henry Cole, WR Samson Nacua, WR Jaylen Dixon
Key Losses: K Matt Gay, LB Chase Hansen, LB Cody Barton, CB Marquise Blair, S Corrion Ballard, LT Jackson Barton
In order for Utah to take the next step and win the Pac-12 they need to be more consistent offensively against the top defenses in the country. Tyler Huntley is back at quarterback, which is a very good thing, but they need to keep him healthy. Huntley threw for 1,788 yards last season with 12 touchdown passes and six interceptions. Zack Moss returns at running back after rushing for 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns in just nine games before suffering a season ending knee injury. Britain Covey and Demari Simpkins lead a solid wide receiver group that will benefit greatly from the return of Moss. Tight end Cole Fotheringham should be a good safety valve in the passing game for Huntley and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. The offensive line brings back three starters led by Darrin Paulo and this unit needs to do a better job of protecting the quarterback as the Utes surrendered 2.29 sacks per game last season.
Bradlee Anae is back to lead a defensive front that will be a problem for just about every opponent on Utah’s schedule. Anae had eight sacks in 2018 to pace a Utes defense that averaged 2.64 sacks per game in 2018. Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley has some work to do at linebacker as Utah needs to replace Chase Hansen and Cody Barton who were absolute stalwarts for the Utes during their careers. Francis Bernard and Penn State graduate transfer Manny Bowen are expected to step into both starting linebacker spots this fall. In the secondary, Jaylon Johnson is the next in line to be that elite lock down cover corner after picking off four passes last season. Javelin Guidry and Julian Blackmon will round out this unit and, if they can help Johnson create more turnovers, it will be a huge plus for Utah defensively. Replacing Matt Gay and Mitch Wishnowsky in the kicking game has to be addressed as Jadon Redding is in the driver seat to win the starting kicker job and Ben Lennon is the next Australian punter in line to start for Utah in 2019.
The Bottom Line:
The Holy War kicks off the 2019 season as they take on in-state rival BYU in this critical game for in-state bragging rights and for the Pac-12 as a whole. A road trip to USC on a Friday night could be a trap game for Utah as it will be a short week and road teams in the conference have had their issues at times on the road on a Friday night. A trip to Seattle for a rematch of last year’s Pac-12 Conference Championship game against Washington will be a tough road test and is the biggest challenge on the schedule after the USC game in September. Overall, if the Utes can the win the games they are supposed to win and show more explosiveness offensively they will win the Pac-12 South this fall.
Projected Bowl:  Holiday Bowl
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 180.0 (53rd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 215.8 (79, 11)
Total Offense: 395.8 (72, 7)
Scoring Offense: 28.1 (75, 6)
Rushing Defense: 100.3 (5, 1)
Pass Defense: 215.3 (53, 3)
Total Defense: 315.6 (14, 2)
Scoring Defense: 19.4 (16, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.36 (100, 10)
Sacks: 2.64 (32, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 2.29 (72, 8)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#39 Jaylon Johnson