2006 Record: (8-5, 5-3)
Coach: Kyle Whittingham (15-10 at Utah, 15-10 overall)
Starters Returning: 16 (9 offense, 5 defense, 2 specialists)
Offensive Starters Lost: QB Brett Ratliff, OL Tavo Tupola
Offensive Starters Returning: RB Darryl Poston, WR Brent Casteel, WR Brian Hernandez, WR Derrek Richards, TE Matt Sims, OL Zane Beadle, OL Jason Boone, OL Robert Conley, OL Kyle Gunther
Defensive Starters Lost: DT Paul Soliai, DT Kelly Talavou, DE Soli Lefiti, LB J.J. Williams, CB Eric Weddle, S Casey Evans
Defensive Starters Returning: DE Martail Burnett, LB Joe Jiannoni, LB Malakai Mokofisi, CB Brice McCain, S Steve Tate
Starting Specialists Lost: none
Starting Specialists Returning: K/P Louie Sakoda
For Starters: If it was not for a brutal schedule, Utah would be a candidate along with fellow Mountain West Conference member TCU to bust into a BCS game. With an experienced offense and a decent defense, the Utes have the potential to be a great team. However, their record will not be an indication of how good Coach Kyle Whittingham's team will really be.
Offense: The loss of quarterback Brett Ratliff is
practically not a loss at all. Ratliff had a good senior season, throwing for 23
touchdowns and nine interceptions, but the Utes return the conference's leading
passer of 2005. Brian Johnson underwent knee surgery in December of 2005
and missed the entire 2006 campaign. The former second team all-MWC honoree
knows the offense and is a much more dangerous runner than Ratliff. Johnson will
find plenty of receiving options since Utah returns their top six receivers. The
speedy Derek Richards and red zone target Brent Casteel will lead
The only thing that will stop the Utah passing game is Utah's pathetic rushing attack. Darryl Poston returns, again, and the seventh year senior will lead the running game. Poston only posted 553 rushing yards, but that doubled anybody else on the team. He is a decent slasher, but will not break the big runs and in his 145 rushes last year, an 18 yard carry was his longest. Power backs Darrell Mack and Ray Stowers also return, but somebody has to step up and bring some life to the backfield or the quarterback will be the team's leading rusher.
Defense: Utah rotates their linemen on a regular basis and
that means there are plenty of experienced options to replace Kelly Talavou
and Paul Soliai. Kenape Elipo and Gabe Long are the
probable starters at tackle, but there are fewer concerns on the ends.
Martial Burnett, Alex Puccinelli and Greg Newman saw plenty of
playing time in 2006 and return for 2007. The linebackers will be lead by second
team all-conference player Joe Jianonni and seniors Malakai Mokofisi
and Kyle Brady will fight it out again for the starting honors at the
stud linebacker position. Despite the loss of rover J.J. Williams,
Stevenson Sylvester is a quality replacement who earned the starting job
last year before suffering an ankle injury.
The secondary is where Utah fans start to worry. Outside of free safety Steve Tate and corner Brice McCain, there is very little experience. Former wide receiver Sean Smith and special teamers Joe Dale, Justin Jones, R.J. Rice, R.J. Stanford and Elijah Wesson will battle it out for playing time to replace the departed safety Casey Evans and corner Eric Weddle.
The Bottom Line: The secondary is a big concern and the Utes will not be better without All-American cornerback Weddle. If the defense, which gave up less than 20 points per game last year, can fill their holes, Utah will be a force in the Mountain West. The running game cannot be any worse than it was last year, but finding a little more offensive balance would be helpful.
|08/30||at Oregon State|
|10/27||at Colorado State|
QB Brian Johnson missed the entire 2006 season with a knee injury.