Pac-12 Media Polls
The Pac-12 media day was today and there is a lot that I am excited about for Utah Football. Coach Whittingham seems enthusiastic about this upcoming season and is holding high standards for the team. Pre-season media polls show Stanford as the favorite to win the Pac-12 and Utah was projected to finish 3rd overall in the Pac-12 South Division.
Question Marks for the Utes
The Utes finished last year at 10-3 and they seem to be trending upwards each year. However, the Utes also lost some key players from last years squad. Devontae Booker, Travis Wilson, Tom Hackett, Gionni Paul, Jared Norris, and Jason Fanaika are the most notable starters that will not be returning this year. With those key players gone, there are a few question marks the Utes will need to address this summer.
Who will start at QB?
There is currently a 3-way QB competition going on right now between Troy Williams, Tyler Huntley, and Brandon Cox. Troy Williams was seen as the favorite, but he injured his shoulder midway through spring ball. This gave Huntley and Cox more time with the offense to prove they were worthy to start at QB. At Pac-12 media day, Whittingham was asked about Williams and he said:
“Troy Williams was beginning to separate himself from the other two quarterbacks right when he hurt his shoulder. It was almost the exact midpoint of spring ball. I think it was practice 7 of 15 practices, so he was trending upward and starting to play some really good football, went down with the injury, which obviously put him out of the mix for the last two weeks of spring, gave the other two guys a chance to get more reps, which they made the most of. But we’re going to pick back up with the competition in the fall right where we left off at the end of spring, which is all three guys getting an equal amount of reps with the ones and the twos, see how things sort out.”
It seems if Williams can get healthy and continue improving, he will most likely get the start for the Utes week 1 of the season. He is more experienced and has an excellent skill set that will give the Utes offense a duel threat of being able to run and pass the ball efficiently.
How will the defense do this year?
With so many key players gone from the defense this year, it’s hard to imagine they will all be replaced. However, Whittingham has a track record of recruiting great defensive players and making the Utes one of the top defensive teams in the country every year. Even though the Utes lost so many great players last year, they have a lot of great talent coming back for this season. Some of those players are Kylie Fitts (DE), Hunter Dimick (DE), and Lowell Lotulelei (DT).
Fitts and Dimick will be Seniors this year and Lotulelei will be a Junior. That’s a lot of experience on the defensive line. I have a feeling the defense will be fine, and it seems Whittingham has faith in his defense, so look for them to try to remain a defensive force in the Pac-12.
How good is Joe Williams?
Joe Williams ended up starting the last 3 games of the year in place of the injured Devontae Booker and showed us a glimpse of what could be the next big star for the Utes. He was able to run the ball 85 times, for 399 yards (4.7 yard average), and 4 touchdowns in those 3 games. Williams is one of the fastest players on the team and runs the 40 in 4.3 seconds, and is a very shifty runner. His running style is a little different from Booker, who was more of a ground and pound type runner, but with the elusiveness and quickness of Williams, I believe he has the potential to be one of the best backs in the Pac-12, and possibly the country. Look for him to have a great Senior year with the Utes.
My early predictions
I know it’s early and there are a lot of unknowns for the Utes, but I believe they will finish the 2016-2017 regular season at 10-2, and 2nd in the Pac-12 South division. A lot can change between now and September, but with the new additions at QB, and the return of Joe Williams and the majority of our D-Line and O-Line, I think the Utes will improve this year and establish themselves as a powerhouse in the Pac-12.
– Jesse Thayne