That Kyle Whittingham is comfortable and confident with his staff. He was happy to lose the assistants he did, but made the right hires in their stead. His offensive coordinator(s) are actually familiar with their player personnel for once, which is a bonus. On the defensive side, the same is true, and so is the opposite. Replacing Kalani Sitake is troublesome as much for player relationships as it is for schematic questions. Convincing Pease to come out of retirement to take the reins again is a bit of a coupe in that sense.
What we don’t know:
We don’t know HOW the new offensive and defensive bosses will translate to on-field production. I am confident that all 3 men will do a great job, but we just don’t KNOW. Don’t be fooled by the relatively soft-spoken nature of Aaron Roderick as a play-caller. He is hyper-competitive and dead set on proving that his first demotion was a mistake. The grandfatherly friendliness of Jon Pease might cause some to underestimate his actual coaching chops. Don’t let that be you. He is the perfect guy to develop and utilize what might be a banner year on a defensive line that bears out a tradition of banner years.
What we know: OFFENSE
We know that the starting QB job is Travis Wilson’s to lose. He played well enough down the stretch and when healthy to justify his spot as a fourth year starter. Eliminating turnovers and mistakes was the goal last year. Now it’s elevating the offense and being a playmaker (without taking risks and committing turnovers)
We know Devonte Booker is a legit top 5-10 RB in the country. He has no notable weaknesses in his game, and has set lofty goals for himself. The running attack should be excellent behind an experienced and talented O-line, with production almost entirely tied to health. Games are very likely going to be won and lost here for the Utes.
We know that it is “put up or shut up” time for Kenneth Scott. That is not a bad thing, he has the talent to put up.
What we don’t know: OFFENSE
We don’t know how long Travis Wilson’s leash is as a starter, or if he’s figured out whatever mental blocks or health issues have led to his inconsistent play in the past. Kendall Thompson certainly has designs on playing time, and though the coaching staff has shot down the idea of a dual QB system, Kendall is too good of an athlete not to use in some way.
We don’t know what the RB depth is like to spell Booker, what the TE’s are going to be for this offense, or who the playmakers are on the edge. We don’t know Bubba Poole’s true role in the offense yet. I envision him as this year’s Kaelin Clay, (in terms of versatility)
What we know: DEFENSE
We know that the front seven is loaded. This D-line rotation is as good as any I can remember at Utah, and that is really saying something. I expect we see ten D-lineman play with relative regularity (at least for home games) Dimick, Mokofisi, Lotulelei, Fanaika, Pita, Seni, Tuikolovatu, Shepard, Fitts, Clegg, maybe Ho Ching. A true 3 deep is rare at any school. Starting LB’s are monsters, even if opposing offenses dictate a lot of nickel package stuff so we only see two of them playing at a time quite often. We know that a healthy Tevin Carter is a real game changer when healthy.
What we don’t know: DEFENSE
Dimick is Shrek, so who is Donkey? Hunter was the perfect sidekick to Orchard last year, will Fanaika be that for Dimick this year? (I say yes, in spades) Is the LB depth enough in the sadly likely event that Gianni Paul is limited or misses games? We don’t know who the best corners are. Allen had a great spring, Porter was supposed to be a starter before injury a year ago, and there is a host of other guys with real speed, but Hatfield is gone, so how likely is it that not just one, but TWO playmakers step up? We don’t know who will be the best compliment to Tevin Carter, although, I like the size of Thompson, and the depth looks decent. Morgan Scalley will find the best guy (or combination of guys) to carry his beloved “safety pride” tradition.
What we know: SPECIAL TEAMS
We know that Utah has the best Kicker/Punter combo in the country returning in Automatic Andy and the Punter from Down Unda. Hackett was the best in the country last year. Time for Andy to win his reward.
What we don’t know: SPECIAL TEAMS
Who is going to be the big-time return man. Hobbs? Poole? The best Utah teams going back have had excellent return games. Is there a dynamic talent with the field vision necessary to house a few this