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.
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
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-
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
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
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.
The Sports Network