With 2016 in the books, we’re taking a look at each Utah position group in 2017.
Now that 2016 is over, we’re taking a sneak peak at what Utah football will look like in 2017.
(For this piece, we are not including current recruits or signees from the class of 2017)
Returning impact player
In the pipeline/Limited experience
The Utes’ offense is starting fresh in 2017 with new coordinator Troy Taylor, who has said he intends to attack all parts of the field with an up-tempo/no-huddle offense with about a 60/40 pass/rush balance, with room for adjustment.
Troy Williams, Tyler Huntley
This group is pretty clear–both impact quarterbacks will be coming back. Troy Williams enters as the incumbent starter for his senior season, while backup Tyler Huntley enters his true sophomore season. Head coach Kyle Whittingham and Troy Taylor have both said the quarterbacks will be competing in spring practice.
Zack Moss, Armand Shyne, Troy McCormick, Devonta’e Henry-Cole
The running backs had their depth tested to a large degree in 2016, and they passed the test. Even though Big Show Joe has moved on, the position group is still loaded with talent.
Demari Simpkins, Raelon Singleton, Siaosi Wilson, Kyle Fulks
Alec Dana, Caleb Repp, Kenric Young, Samson Nacua
After heavy criticism in 2015, the wide receivers took a noticeable step forward this season under the tutelage of new position coach Guy Holliday. Still, there is room to improve, but plenty of talent remains to showcase in Taylor’s new offensive installation.
Harrison Handley, Siale Fakailoatonga
Chad Hekking, Bapa Falemaka
Harrison Handley was arguably underused in the passing game in 2016, but Evan Moeai got some significant playmaking time. With Handley returning and Fakailoatonga coming off yet another knee injury, the Utes still look strong at tight end.
Jackson Barton, Lo Falemaka, Salesi “Leka” Uhatafe
Jake Grant, Scott Peck, Darrin Paulo
With the graduations of Isaac Asiata, Sam Tevi, and Nick Nowakowski, and the departure of Garett Bolles to the NFL, the offensive line has a few holes to fill. Jackson Barton was a “third tackle” this season, getting significant playing time. Lo Falemaka will return to his position at center, and Uhatafe will continue to hold down right guard. But Jim Harding still needs to fill a tackle and a guard (likely Paulo) spot. There will no doubt be an intriguing position battle between the highly-touted recruits.
Morgan Scalley enters his second season as defensive coordinator, and has probably learned a few lessons. The Utes’ traditional strength was still above average in 2016, but struggled in some aspects. Utah still has a lot of talent on defense, but will have a lot of sorting out to do.
Kylie Fitts, Filipo Mokofisi, Lowell Lotulelei, Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu
Chris Hart, Alani Havili-Kotoa, Pita Tonga, Maxs Tupai
There isn’t a lot of issue here. Like the last couple years, the Utes may need to get creative in finding ways to get talented rotation players some time on the field. Kylie Fitts returns from an injury for a final season, while matched on the other side by standout Bradlee Anae. Lowell Lotulelei will return to Salt Lake for his senior season. D-line coach Lewis Powell has a lot of depth to work with this season, and will probably once again boast the team’s strongest position group.
Sunia Tauteoli, Kavika Luafatasaga, Cody Barton
Donavan Thompson, Davir Hamilton
Linebacker was a major, glaring issue from spring ball through the entire 2016 season for Utah, and it won’t appear to immediately get better. All three principle starters will return, though Luafatasaga played a pretty good game in the Foster Farms Bowl. Donavan Thompson (who played several snaps this year) and Davir Hamilton will undoubtedly get looks in the spring, and the other three will have to prove they’re worth keeping in the starting lineup.
Julian Blackmon, Terrell Burgess, Nygel King, Tyrone Smith, Casey Hughes
There are no returning impact players to replace Domo Hatfield, Brian Allen, and Reggie Porter. Sharrieff Shah has a terrific history of developing cornerbacks, and he’ll need to show that off come spring ball when four young defensive backs and one wide receiver transplant (Smith) are vying for rotational spots. Shah and Whittingham have said in the past they like 5-6 game-ready corners in their pocket. Right now they have maybe one.
With longtime dependable nickel Justin Thomas graduating, it’s all up to Boobie Hobbs now. He didn’t play as much as JT, but he’s not fresh off the bench. Hobbs should be a reliable option in the backfield for the Utes this season. But who’s behind him?
Chase Hansen, Jordan Fogal, Andre Godfrey
Marcus Williams declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season (and rightly so), so the Utes will be losing their best safety since Eric Weddle. Still, there’s hope for a strong safety group with stud Chase Hansen coming back (although he may play in the box a lot to help the LBs). Fogal had a strong performance filling in for Williams, and Andre Godfrey is a capable player that hasn’t seen much playing time for his skill.
Nothing to say here. They’re fine.
Utah fans will be without Andy Phillips for the first time in four seasons. Chayden Johnston will return from his LDS mission on scholarship, and we’ll see how that goes. Hayes Hicken will likely stay on kickoffs, but probably won’t see a lot of time at placekicker because he lacks precision with all that power.
Along with kicker and punter, the Utes have been spoiled for the past four seasons with the automatic reliability of Chase Dominguez. Whoever is next has big shoes to fill.
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