Let me start by saying this….I think this could be a very special season for Utah Football. Five years after joining the Pac 12 Conference Utah sits in a position to win a championship for the first time since leaving the Mountain West. That said…They are not the favorites in their division or in the Conference of Champions. I think there are three logical choices in the South and North to win each division and do believe that any of those six teams could win a Pac 12 Title Game.
In the North, Stanford, Oregon and Washington all have a realistic shot at their Division Title. In the South, I see USC, UCLA and Utah as the most obvious choices for the Division Championship. The Pac 12 Network’s Yogi Roth has been on record on my radio show as saying Utah is his choice to win the Pac 12 South. ESPN Pac 12 Blogger Ted Miller has written “Why Not Utah” in the Pac 12 South. So Utah is beginning to gain some traction and is no longer sneaking up on folks.
If this is going to be a special year for Utah Football here are Three Things that Must Happen:
- Utah Must Throw the Football Downfield-I’m not exactly breaking new ground here or presenting information that hasn’t been present to Utah Football fans for years. The popular narrative has been to blame Travis Wilson for all the Utah Offensive woes for the last few years. While Travis bears some responsibility in Utah’s struggles offensively, he is not alone. Utah has been woeful in the pass game due to a number of factors: QB Play, Ineffective WR play, Play Calling. The Quarterback position should be upgraded with any of the three QB’s (I think it will be Troy Williams if healthy) on the roster. The Wide Outs are still a major unknown and replacing Britain Covey will not be an easy chore. My guess is Patrick, Butler-Byrd and Repp will be your Top 3 WR’s, plus the use of running backs Joe Williams and Troy McCormick. There are big play guys in that mix, they’ll need to make big plays. The fact is that every upper echelon team in the Pac 12 has “Home Run” threat in the vertical game (most have 2 or 3). Utah must identify those guys and get them the ball
- Find Two Good Linebackers-What made Utah elite the last 2 years on the defensive side of the football was having Gionni Paul and Jared Norris flying to the football. Paul and Norris are gone to the NFL, so who now assumes that mantle for Utah? The obvious choices are the JC LB’s: David Luafatasaga and Kurtis Taufa. However some questions remain on whether Taufa will be on the roster this fall. That leaves names like Barton, Tauteoli, Hart and maybe Hansen as possibilities for Utah. With the strength of the Utah Defense in the front four and a rapidly improving secondary, the Linebacker Corps doesn’t have to be elite, but right now it’s very much an unproven commodity and unproven in the Pac 12 can be a tough way to go.
- Find Someone Who Can Flip the Field-In the years where Utah has been really good on Special Teams, they’ve been outstanding in the kicking game, but also the return game. The kicking game will take care of itself this season as “Old Man” Andy Phillips returns with preseason honors galore. Last year they were solid but not spectacular in the kick and punt return games. Utah has arguably more speed and athleticism on their roster than they’ve had since joining the Pac 12. They’ve got to channel that into the return game. Cory Butler-Byrd, Troy McCormick, Kyle Fulks, Tavaris Williams, are all guys will elite speed and game changing ability. Short fields are an offenses best friend, let’s see if Utah can “return” to that this year.
80 Days till Southern Utah! All the Action All Year on ESPN 700!