#66 Utah Football 2013 Preview

Utah Utes

Overall Rank: #66
#10 Pac-12

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Since joining the Pac-12, the Utah Utes have had a tough transition dealing with the week in and week out, non-stop competitiveness of the conference. It will take some time for the Utes to become fully acclimated to the competition in the Pac-12, but there is a strong foundation in place and, sooner rather than later, the Utes will be making plenty of noise on the college football national landscape.  It will be a challenge to turn the corner and get back to a bowl in 2013 but if the Utes can stay healthy and key skill players step up, they will give themselves a chance in November to be in the mix for a bowl.

2012 Record: (5-7, 3-6)
2012 Bowl: None
Coach: Kyle Whittingham (71-32 at Utah, 71-32 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Johnson and Dennis Erickson
Defensive Coordinator: Kalani Sitake

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kelvin York, RB, 273 yards
Passing: Travis Wilson, QB, 1,311 yards
Receiving: Dres Anderson, WR, 365 yards
Tackles: Trevor Reilly, DE, 69
Sacks: Trevor Reilly, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Trevor Reilly, DE, 1; Eric Rowe, S, 1; Brian Blechen, LB, 1

Other Key Returnees: WR Kenneth Scott, OL  Jeremiah Poutasi, C Vyncent Jones, OL Jeremiah Tofaeono, WR Quinton Pedroza, TE Jake Murphy, DT Tenny Palepoi, DE Nate Orchard, LB V.J. Fehoko

Key Losses: DT Star Lotulelei, DE Joe Kruger, RB John White, LT Sam Brenner, DT Dave Kruger, C Tevita Stevens

The veteran defensive leadership of end Trevor Reilly and outside linebacker Brian Blechen will be the key in leading the Ute defense. The defense was stout against the run in 2012 thanks to Star Lotulelei, a first-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in this past April’s NFL Draft. The Utes always play a physical brand of football defensively and will need to lead the way early in the season until the offense can find its stride. The depth at receiver, aided by the explosiveness of junior Quinton Pedroza and the experience of Kenneth Scott, should help facilitate the new spread offense. If the concept works early, it can keep defenses honest instead of allowing the opposition to stack the box with eight or nine guys to stop the running game.   

The Utes have struggled offensively to be able to create big explosive plays that have been a huge team trademark. Veteran offensive mastermind, Dennis Erickson, has come out of retirement to be a co-offensive coordinator with Brian Johnson. The task for Erickson will be to get the offensive line stabilized so the young quarterback, Travis Wilson, can continue to grow and mature. Also, the Utes need more production on the outside as Dres Anderson is the leading returning wide receiver with 365 yards last season. He needs to make a run at 1,000 receiving yards for the Utes offense to really take off in 2013.

The Bottom Line:
The conference schedule gets tougher for the Utes this season with Stanford and Oregon added to the schedule. The Utes should be their usual competitive selves on defense. Coach Whittingham has created a strong overall culture of great line play and secondary play that will keep the Utes in games. Two big keys to this season are to be more dynamic in the passing game with the continued maturation of sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson. If the Utes can start fast with three home games, including a huge conference opener against Oregon State, they can grind their way to six wins and become bowl eligible once again. It won’t be easy and there is not much of a margin for error, but it can be done if they improve offensively to keep their defense from being on the field too long during games.

Projected Bowl: None

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 133.8 (91st in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 190.7 (97, 12)
Total Offense: 324.4 (105, 11)
Scoring Offense: 26.7 (73, 8)
Rushing Defense: 128.2 (22, 2)
Pass Defense: 235.2 (64, 6)
Total Defense: 363.5 (36, 5)
Scoring Defense: 25.1 (49, 7)
Turnover Margin: 0.33 (42, 7)
Sacks: 2.42 (34, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 2.08 (71, 5)

Madness 2014 NFL Draft Rankings:
#49 Brian Blechen


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