On Saturday, the Utes offense showed just how explosive they could be, scoring quickly on their first drive, and shredding the defense through the air. However, on Tuesday at their 13th practice of the spring, it was Utah’s defense that showcased their potential.
In what shows promise as possibly one of the most talented defenses in the past, Utah knows that it possesses the play-makers that could propel the Utes to the top of the PAC-12.
Possibly the brightest spot on the defensive side of the ball for Utah is their corners. Though many think of the Utes as a defensive line led group, players like Julian Blackmon leads a secondary that is as deep as any in the conference.
During practice on Tuesday, it was Blackmon who showed his promise, when lined up against 6″3 receiver Samson Nacua, who is enjoying a breakthrough spring himself. On two separate occasions, Blackmon broke up potential touchdown passes from quarterback Tyler Huntley to Nacua. The junior corner also led the Utes in interceptions in 2017 with 4.
What makes the coaches and fans so excited about the secondary however is not just Blackmon. Jaylon Johnson, Corrion Ballard (second on the team in interceptions in 2017) and Terrell Burgess.
“The corner spot, we have some of the best depth that we’ve had, with some of the best length that we’ve had,” said defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley after Tuesday’s practice.
“Last year it (the secondary) was a question mark, now all of a sudden these guys are confident, they’ve played a PAC-12 schedule, they’ve had success, its good to have those guys back,” Scalley said.
In linebackers, all fans know of the change there with the move of Chase Hansen to the linebacking position from safety, a move that doesn’t concern Scalley in the slightest. “The move there (Hansen switching to linebacker) seems to be like it was a natural fit.” Scalley has also been impressed with the play of Devin Lloyd and Chris Hart. Cody Barton and Donovan Thompson also make up the other linebackers, and will make an impact in the fall.
On the d-line, it seems as though “Sack Lake City” will return to Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2018. A monster that headlines the defensive end position is Bradley Anae. The 6″3 265 pound junior led the Utes in sacks in 2017 with 7.0. “I do look up to guys like Trevor Riley, Nate Orchard, those big time names, and I hope to achieve what they’ve achieved,” Anae told Gunther and Ben on Tuseday.
You can catch the whole interview that Bradley Anae had with Gunther and Ben:
Getting to the quarterback is something that the Utes will need to improve on in 2018, after recording just 25 sacks last season, their lowest total in 10 years as a program. However, coach Scalley is optimistic about the depth that the line has. “We feel good with Leki Fotu, Hauati Putatau, Pita Tonga, we’re excited about the depth there,” Scalley told reporters.
Utah’s defense was the team’s strong point in 2017, ranking third in the PAC-12 in total defense, and first in the South.
This Saturday, the Utes will wrap up spring ball with their annual red-and-white game at Rice Eccles stadium.