Utah Utes Football Offseason Preview
The Utah Utes just completed one of the greatest seasons in their history. In 2004 and 2008, Utah went unbeaten. The Utes did not do that in 2021, but they did something even better and more special: They won their first-ever Pac-12 championship and made their first Rose Bowl. Utah finally broke through and – after 11 seasons as a Pac-12 member school – won its conference championship by hammering Oregon in Las Vegas. Utah struggled in the early part of its season but then found its footing and rolled through the Pac-12, beating Oregon twice. The Utes beat Oregon late in the regular season before applying a second beatdown against the Ducks just a few weeks later in early December. Coach Kyle Whittingham, who has been in charge of the Utah program for nearly two decades, finally reached the mountaintop and led his team to the treasured Rose Bowl game, where it lost a classic shootout to Ohio State, 48-45. The Utes are coming back in 2022 with a loaded roster and a lot of the same faces which guided this program to a historic achievement in 2021. Utah is being viewed by many experts as a legitimate contender for the College Football Playoff. If that is the case, it’s clear that the consensus view of Utah is that the Utes are a top-eight program heading into the new season.
Key Personnel Lost
Linebacker Devin Lloyd was an elite defensive player for the Pac-12 champions last season. He went early in the NFL draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars. No other player Utah has lost from 2021 is nearly as impactful or important. Linebacker Carson Tabaracci transferred to USC from Utah, and on the coaching staff, running back coach Kiel McDonald also left Utah to go to USC to join Lincoln Riley. For the most part, though, there aren’t a large number of personnel changes with this team. This is why Utah is expected to be great once again this season.
Important Incoming Freshmen
Linebacker Lander Barton, safety Elijah Davis, linebacker Justin Medlock, running back Jaylon Glover, and receiver Chris Reed will try to provide needed depth behind the many established starters and quality players Utah has cultivated on its roster. The Utes have most of what they need, but if injuries emerge, they will need depth pieces to fill in the gaps and minimize erosion at various position groups.
Key Position Battles
The Utah secondary was badly undermanned in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. Not having enough bodies available for that game enabled Ohio State to throw consistently for big yardage and ultimately win a game in which the Buckeyes had trailed by two touchdowns. Getting the right players in the right spots in the secondary will be hugely important for Whittingham and the rest of his defensive staff. That position group needs to be figured out.
Biggest Offseason Goal(s)
The biggest thing for Utah is to not change a winning formula. Last year’s team was fantastic and is coming back for a repeat of the Pac-12 championship. Utah has to maintain what it established. Getting players focused on the goal, and not on outside noise, is a basic goal for the coaching staff.