The University of Utah announced a few early starters on Monday, 11 days out from the season opener against Weber State. It should come as no surprise that Chase Hansen, also announced as a team captain, is going to start at linebacker, though it may be a slight surprise that he’ll be starting next to Cody Barton. Barton is the longest tenured LB at Utah, and has improved every season with the Utes, so he deserves to start agains the Wildcats. However, late additions Bryant Pirtle and Francis Bernard should push Barton for the starting job early in the year.
Leki Fotu will be a starter at defensive tackle, while John Penisni, Hauati Pututau, and Pita Tonga compete for reps at the other DT spot. Bradlee Anae locked down one defensive end position before camp started, while the other end spot has been an open competition. At practice, we have seen both Caleb Repp and Mika Tafua getting the majority of the reps with the ones, and I wouldn’t anticipate the Utes naming a starter until the Utes first game.
Most surprisingly is Braeden Daniels, the true freshman offensive lineman finding his way into the Utes two-deep at tackle. While ideally the Utes wouldn’t have to rotate tackles this year, and could move forward with Jackson Barton and Darrin Paulo on every snap, it’s very likely Daniels will find the field for one reason or another. I would be surprised to see Daniels preserve his redshirt, even with the new redshirt rules allowing freshman to play four games without losing any eligibility.