#23 Utah Football 2021 Preview

Utah Utes
Overall Rank: #23
#4 Pac-12
 Utah Logo
Utah got off to a slow start to their shortened 2020 season, losing to USC and Washington. But after that they reeled off three straight wins against Oregon State, Colorado and Washington State. Coach Kyle Whittingham returns most of that team and they will look to build off their December success in 2021.
2020 Record: 3-2, 3-2
2020 Bowl: None
Coach: Kyle Whittingham (134-66 at Utah, 134-66 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Andy Ludwig
Defensive Coordinator: Morgan Scalley
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Micah Bernard, RB, 76 yards
Passing: Cameron Rising, QB, 45 yards
Receiving: Britain Covey, WR, 264 yards
Tackles: Devin Lloyd, LB, 48           
Sacks: Mika Tafua, DE, 3.0
Interceptions: Vonte Davis, S, 2; Nephi Sewell, LB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Devonte Lee, TE Brant Kuithe, OL Nick Ford, OL Sataoa Laumea, CB JaTravis Broughton, CB Clark Phillips III, K Jadon Redding
Key Losses: RB Ty Jordan, RB Devin Brumfield, QB Jake Bentley, WR Bryan Thompson, S Nate Ritchie
The big departure on offense is quarterback Jake Bentley. The Utes do have plenty of options though. Cameron Rising won the starting job last fall but suffered a season ending injury after throwing just six passes. That forced Bentley into action. Now Rising will have to compete with Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer for the starting job. Speaking of transfers, the Utes added TJ Pledger from Oklahoma and Chris Curry from LSU to bolster their group of running backs. Britain Covey is a versatile wide receiver who caught 19 passes for a team high 264 years and three touchdowns in 2020. The addition of Theo Howard, who played in Oklahoma in 2020 after a productive long stint at UCLA adds a much needed experienced receiving threat. With a very good and experienced offensive line, the new pieces on offense should be given the opportunity to succeed.
Utah’s pass defense ranked 10th in the Pac-12 last year, but that young group that entered the 2020 campaign with so many potential issues now has a lot of potential. JaTravis Broughton earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors and Clark Phillips III could be one of the best corners in the conference sooner than later. Safety Vonte Davis proved to be a dangerous playmaker, recording 16 tackles and two interceptions. Linebacker Devin Lloyd opted to return to Utah for one more season after earning some All-American accolades following a season in which he led the Utes with 48 tackles. He will team up with Nephi Sewell to form a very good linebacker corp. There is room to improve when it comes to the pass rush and much of that pressure will fall on the shoulders of Mika Tafua.
The Bottom Line:
We really did not learn too much about Utah in their five games last season. That should change quickly in 2021. The Utes start off with what should be an easy win over Weber State. After that they hit the road for a couple interesting contests against BYU and San Diego State. Those are not easy road games, but those are games the Utes should win if they are going to be a serious contender for the Pac-12 South title. Of course, the October 9th trip to USC will have a much larger impact on the South title race.
Projected Bowl:  Redbox Bowl
2020 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 194.0 (39th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 215.8 (76, 7)
Total Offense: 409.8 (53, 7)
Scoring Offense: 30.2 (51, 6)
Rushing Defense: 107.8 (11, 1)
Pass Defense: 257.2 (99, 10)
Total Defense: 365.0 (37, 2)
Scoring Defense: 26.0 (46, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.00 (60, 5)
Sacks: 2.00 (73, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.40 (22, 3)