I-A College Football
 
 
           ***** NCAA Football Preview - Utah Utes *****
 
 By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 
 2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Even though their overall record might not have looked
 particularly impressive at the end of the season, the Utah Utes did enjoy
 some success in 2012.
 
 Out of the gate Utah was holding a 2-1 record before Pac-12 play began. Utah
 opened the season with a predictable rout of FCS foe Northern Colorado (41-0),
 dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to Utah State (27-20) but then topped
 another Beehive State rival the following week with a 24-21 win over BYU, a
 team that would go 8-5. Getting into league play hurt though as the Utes lost
 four straight games to begin the Pac-12 slate, though losses to USC (38-28)
 and at UCLA (21-14) showed that the Utes could compete.
 
 Utah then won three of its final five contests but at 5-7 the Utes missed out
 on a bowl. It snapped a 10-year streak of postseason play for Utah. Getting
 another streak going will be a challenge in 2013.
 
 2013 ANALYSIS:
 
 OFFENSE: It is extremely tough to be consistent in winning games when you have
 to shift between quarterbacks frequently. That was a huge problem for Utah
 which had to use three different quarterbacks last season.
 
 Jordan Wynn was lost early on in the campaign with a career-ending shoulder
 injury. His backup, Jon Hays, took over and was serviceable, completing
 60.6 percent of his pass attempts for 653 yards, seven touchdowns and just two
 interceptions. However Hays' stay in the spot was short-lived as freshman
 Travis Wilson started the final seven games of the season.
 
 Wilson had similar numbers to Hays, completing 62.6 percent of his pass
 attempts for 1,311 yards and seven touchdowns, though he was intercepted six
 times. The difference was that the Utes were 3-4 when Wilson started as
 opposed to 1-3 when Hays was the primary option.
 
 This season Wilson wont be competing with Hays, who graduated, and will have a
 chance to develop on his own without the added pressure of competition.
 
 "We have not been able to start and finish a season with the same quarterback
 for four straight years," head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "So we have to get
 consistency there, Travis Wilson we hope is going to bring that to us."
 
 One area where Utah kept steady last season was rushing the ball thanks to
 record setting back John White, who rushed for 1,000 yards in back to back
 seasons for the first time in program history. The bad news is that White is
 gone. Set to take his place is Kelvin York. A senior who rushed for 273 yards
 last season, York doesn't have much competition for the job as Lucky Radley
 (50 yards in 2012) is the second most productive returning back.
 
 All of the team's top three receivers are back for Wilson to sling the ball
 to. Dres Anderson caught 36 passes for 365 yards last season but didn't show a
 ton of open field speed. Jake Murphy hauled in 33 passes for 349 yards and
 four touchdowns out of the tight end slot. Meanwhile Kenneth Scott also
 reached the 30-reception plateau while picking up 360 yards and three
 touchdowns. In all the trio form a promising set of players in the passing
 game.
 
 The offensive line, an area that Utah did not have consistency in last season,
 is largely made up of players that were either sidelined by injuries or
 filling in as starters for the first time. Center Vyncent Jones is a senior
 that needs to lead the unit, while left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi showed a
 ton of potential as a freshman.
 
 DEFENSE: Utah ranked 11th in the conference in total offense (324.4 ypg). What
 kept the Utes in bowl contention late was the team's defense, led by all-
 conference defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. The Utes ranked a respectable
 fifth in the conference in total defense (363.4 ypg), while finishing 22nd
 nationally against the run (128.2 ypg).
 
 Now the Utes are tasked with repeating or even improving on that type of
 production without Lotulelei, who was a first round pick in the NFL Draft.
 
 The Utes will also have to do so with only four actual starters off last
 year's roster. The focus of the defense will shift to linebacker Trevor
 Reilly, who led the team with 69 tackles, while also accumulating 4.5 sacks
 even though he missed three games for violating team rules. The senior can
 play both on the outside as a linebacker and as a defensive end to rush the
 passer. Assuming he stays out of trouble, Reilly could be competing for all-
 conference honors.
 
 Reilly will be joined in the front seven by Nate Orchard, formerly Nate
 Fakahafua. Orchard was an All-Conference honorable mention selection last
 season when he collected 48 tackles, 9.5 for loss and three sacks. Much is
 expected of him in 2013.
 
 Brian Blechen had 58 tackles and was second on the team with six passes
 defended. Blechen's natural position is safety but he will get time at
 linebacker. His versatility will be important. Eric Rowe is the final
 returning starter and will man the free safety spot. Rowe had 65 tackles to
 finish second on the team and his six passes defended tied with Blechen. Still
 the secondary is largely unproven.
 
 "We play a lot of three-corner defensive schemes, a nickel package-type
 schemes and the three corners that played for us last year were all seniors
 and they played (most) of the snaps during the course of the season so it's a
 complete rebuild at the corner position," Whittingham said.
 
 SPECIAL TEAMS: Speaking of rebuilding, the Utes are replacing just about every
 spot on special teams. Freshman Jamie Sutcliffe and sophomore Andy Phillips
 will compete to take the place kicking spot left by Coleman Peterson.
 Meanwhile, Tom Hackett, who averaged just 38.9 yards per punt last season,
 will now be the full-time punter.
 
 The return game lost a huge piece in Reggie Dunn, who brought back four
 kickoffs for touchdowns. Anderson and Charles Henderson will be looked to fill
 the void, while Henderson should resume punt return duties as well. Though he
 returned all but five punts last season, Henderson wasn't particularly
 effective, averaging 5.3 yards per return.
 
 OUTLOOK: In 2011 the Utes surprised many by finishing 8-5 and winning a bowl
 game in their first season in the Pac-12. With such high expectations set so
 early on, the regression last season was a disappointment. Still their is
 faith in Whittingham and an understanding that this team is still in
 transition.
 
 Utah will play the first three games of the 2013 campaign at home with dates
 against Utah State, Weber State and the Pac-12 opener against Oregon State.
 Utah is just 7-11 in conference play in its two seasons in the league so an
 upset win there would go a long way. Utah travels to face BYU next for the
 last non-conference game of the season. From there the Utes get UCLA and
 Stanford in back-to-back weeks, followed by a two-game road trip against
 Arizona and USC. Utah then sandwiches road games against Oregon and Washington
 State between home tilts with Arizona State and Colorado. The games against
 Oregon and Stanford will be the first for the Utes since coming into the
 Pac-12.
 
 There are far too many concerns entering the year for Utah to really be seen
 as a threat not just in the Pac-12 but the South Division. Still there is
 enough left on defense and enough promise shown by Wilson to believe Utah will
 at least keep things interesting. A bowl game isn't out of the question.
 
 
 
 08/20 10:56:23 ET

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