Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham
2016 record: 9-4 overall, 6-3 Pac 12 South
2016 Postseason results: Beat Indiana 26-24 in the Foster Farms Bowl
2017 returning starters: 4 offense, 4 defense
Odds to win 2018 College Football Championship game: 350/1
Odds to win 2017 Pac 12 Championship Game: 40/1
Odds to Win 2017 Pac 12 South Division: 29/2
Regular season wins: under 6 1/2 -135 / over 6 1/2 +105
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The Utah Utes began last season 7-1, but lost three of their last four games in the regular season. All four losses were by seven points or less. The Utes would end the season with a 26-24 win over Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl.
This year eight starters are back for coach Kyle Whittingham and it could be a rebuilding year. Here is a look at Utah on offense, defense and special teams, plus the schedule and outlook for the season.
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Utah averaged 431 yards per game on offense including 214 rushing yards. The Utes averaged 30 points per game. While those won’t terrible numbers, Whittingham decided to change coordinators. Last year, Utah had co-coordinators in Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding. Roderick was fired, while Harding was named assistant head coach. Harding will continue to be the offensive line coach as well. Utah hired Troy Taylor to be the new coordinator from the same position at Eastern Washington. He will install an up-tempo spread offense for the Utes.
Senior quarterback Troy Williams completed 53.1% of his passes for 2,757 yards with 15 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and rushed for 235 yards on 111 carries with 5 touchdowns. It looked like he was going to be the starter again and was even named a team captain. However, late in camp Taylor decided sophomore Tyler Huntley was a better fit for the offense and shockingly named him the starter. Huntley threw for 60 yards last year but did have a rushing touchdown.
Running back Joe Williams retired from football due to injuries, but that only lasted two games due to injuries for the Utes’ running backs. He had 210 carries for 1,407 yards and 10 touchdowns, plus 9 catches for 107 yards. Williams is now with the San Francisco 49ers. Zach Moss and Armand Shyne are the top returning rushers but both are out indefinitely. Moss had 84 carries for 382 yards and 2 touchdowns. Shyne had 78 carries for 373 yards and 4 touchdowns. Jordan Howard and Devonta’e Henry-Cole are the best of the healthy running backs. Henry-Cole had an impressive spring practice.
Three of the top four receivers are gone. Tim Patrick had 45 catches for 711 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is also with the 49ers. Cory Butler-Byrd and tight end Evan Moeai are both gone as well. They combined for 61 catches, 680 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Raelon Singleton had 27 catches for 464 yards and 4 touchdowns. He will be the go-to receiver. Siaosi Wilson had 15 catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns. He will start as well as DeMari Simpkins who had 19 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Harrison Handley had 12 catches for 168 yards. Redshirt freshman Bapa Falemaka has star potential at tight end.
The line must replace four starters including star left tackle Garrett Bolles. Jackson Barton and Johnny Capra are the tackles. The guards will be Darrin Paulo and Salesi Uhatafe. Lo Falemaka is the center.
Utah allowed 383 yards per game on defense including 129 rushing yards. The Utes struggled against the pass allowing 254 yards per game. Utah allowed 24 points per game. Four starters are back for coordinator Morgan Scalley.
Defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei had 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Filipo Mokofisi will start at the other tackle. He had 45 tackles including 8 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Kylie Fitts and Bradlee Anae will start at the ends.
Sunia Tauteoli and Kavika Luafatasaga will be the linebackers. Tauteoli had 57 tackles last year. Luafatasaga had 52 tackles including 5 for loss. Utah will use more five defensive back sets as opposed to the 4-3 they used last year.
Safety Chase Hansen is questionable for the start of the season with an undisclosed injury. He had 90 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, 3 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. All the other starters are gone. Corrion Ballard will start at the other safety. Tyrone Smith and Julian Blackmon are the cornerbacks. Terrell Burgess will be the nickel back.
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A Utah punter has won the Ray Guy award as the nation’s top punter for three straight seasons including Mitch Wishnowsky. He is back after averaging 48 yards per punt. Hayes Hicken takes over as the kicker. Kyle Fulks will return punts and Boobie Hobbs will return kicks.
Schedule and Outlook
Utah opens the season at home against North Dakota. The Utes then travel to BYU before hosting San Jose State. Utah travels to Arizona, hosts Stanford, and then travels to USC. The Utes host Arizona State and travel to Oregon. Utah closes the season with Washington on the road and Colorado at home.
There aren’t a lot of returning starters back on either side of the ball. Plus there are injuries to key contributors. The schedule is also very difficult. I think it all adds up to six wins for the Utes.
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