Offensive Player of the Mid-Year
Cella- RB Devontae Booker. Booker is the obvious pick but the right one. He's been the most consistent offensive player all season and has been nearly unstoppable behind a very physical and nasty offensive line that knows how to run block. Booker is the conference's second best running back averaging 124 yards/game and if he'd been asserted as Utah's starter at the start of the season, he'd likely be the conference top back (statistically). With little, to no passing production against P5 opponents, Booker has been a huge reason for the Ute's surprising 5-1 record.
Kimmel- RT J.J. Dielman
Swinney- Booker. Do I have to say anything other than wondering why it took 3 and a half games for him to be named the starter?
Defensive Player of the Mid-Year
Cella- LB Gionni Paul. Orchard has the sack numbers, but Paul has had the biggest effect on the entire defense, leading the team with 3 interception, but more importantly, infusing an attitude and swagger desperately needed for a questionable defensive unit. Players are feeding off his energy and leadership and unlike Orchard, Paul doesn't disappear during stretches of the game. Is he the best tackler on the team? Certainly not, but he's got great instincts, speed and has turned into the leader needed in Trevor Reilly's absence.
Gorringe- LB Jared Norris
Jones- Norris. I would go with Tevin Carter (by far the most important defensive player), but he's been injured too much, so I'll go with Jared Norris. You would expect his numbers to be up with injuries to Paul, Whittingham and Hale, but what he has done has been better than just inflated numbers. He tackles well, covers side to side and has a knack for being around the ball. He also has scary face paint, which counts for a lot.
Kimmel- Norris. Heart, intelligence, and play making. Norris is the motor of the defense, he is telling Gionni Paul what to do every snap, he is aligning the defense, and well, he is smacking opponents around like a mad man. Nearly 10 tackles a game, active in the backfield, and constantly laying the wood. Nate Orchard is a decent pick as well.
Swinney- Paul. Sure some guys have put up more impressive stats and haven't missed time, but this defense took off when Paul returned. It looks like one of the best in the country, and that's because of the transfer from Miami.
Special Teams Player of the Mid-Year
Cella- P Tom Hackett. You can't go wrong choosing between between Andy Phillips, Kaelin Clay or Tom Hackett, but Hackett is my choice because he has turned punting into a weapon that Kyle Whittingham is using masterfully. Hackett is the nation's best punter, and unlike Clay who can be taken out of the game by short or sky-high punts, Hackett can and has affected every game this season. Hackett and the punt coverage has allowed a grand total of 23 return yards with an average of just 2.56 return yards per attempt. If the field need to be flipped, he's doing it. If the opponent needs to be pinned behind the 10 yard line, he's doing it. He's actually made punting fun to watch, which is a terrible thing to say considering a punt means a failed offensive series.
Gorringe- K Andy Phillips
Kimmel- Kaelin Andy Hackett. Can you pick just one? Three All-American candidates? Not a fair question.
Swinney- Phillips. Apologies to Clay and Hackett, but having Phillips back there is a luxury as you know he's not going to miss. UCLA and OSU now know how clutch he is.
Coach of the Mid-Year
Cella- DC Kalani Sitake. Most of the Ute's key injuries have been on the defensive side of the ball and yet Sitake has crafted perhaps his best defensive group since taking over as the Ute's defensive coordinator. A questionable defensive line has now turned into the nations best sack unit and a highly suspect secondary is doing just enough to make Utah's defense amongst the best in the conference. He's the hottest name on the staff and his time as a Ute is limited so enjoy it while you can.
Kimmel- Sitake. I don't even know if anything needs to be said about Sitake and the way this defense is playing.
Swinney- Sitake. This selection is easier than Booker as offensive player of the year. Sitake has taken a defense that looked to have holes, depth issues, and is missing their best corner for the season and turned them into an elite unit....again. Enjoy him now folks, because after this season, he's either heading to the NFL as a DC or taking over his own program as the head man.
Game of the Mid-Year
Cella- at UCLA. Utah proved that it could comeback and beat a quality and ranked Pac-12 opponent on the road. That's never happened before since moving to the Pac-12 four years ago.
Gorringe- at UCLA
Jones- at Oregon State. Most would say UCLA, but they've been a huge disappointment so far this season. The Oregon State game wasn't well played for most of the game, but getting a second-consecutive road win against a quality team, regardless of how pretty it wasn't, is the best so far.
Kimmel- at UCLA. Recruiting repercussions are big from that game, they just abused the Bruins and made a Pac-12 wide statement.
Swinney- at Oregon State. The UCLA win was bigger and the Bruins are better than the Beavers, but the Oregon State game showed that even when they're not playing anywhere near their best, the Utes can still win a tough game on the road. That's the mark of a good team. This one has more value for the remainder of the season in that the Utes avoided the letdown losses that have haunted them the past couple of season.
Disappointment of the Mid-Year
Cella- Wide Receivers. Yes, the quarterback position is a mess, but the receiving corps is worse considering they are a very talented group. They have talked the talk, but haven't delivered consistently against P5 level completion. Taylor Stubblefield has not helped this group at all and one would question whether he was a good fit to replace Arod.
Gorringe- WR Dres Anderson
Jones- Blown 21-0 lead against Washington State. Never doubt a pirate.
Kimmel- The passing game. Not good. QB's have been bad, receivers have been bad, and it's hard to watch at times.
Swinney- The passing game. From quarterbacks to the wide receivers, it's been a mess. We knew that the offensive line couldn't pass block. We had no clue that the quarterbacks and wide receivers would be the worst set in the conference.
Surprise of the Mid-Year
Cella- LB Jared Norris. I thought Norris would be good, but did I think he's been considered one of the top 5 to 10 linebackers in the conference midway through the season? No way. Norris leads the Utes with 58 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 4 sacks and the third best tackler (statistically) in the conference. Biggest surprise for me it that Norris actually looks faster and has asserted himself as a big hitter and sure tackler that almost goes unnoticed at times.
Gorringe- DE Hunter Dimick
Jones- Receiving corpse and not in a good way. The Utes had the luxury of bringing back Dres Anderson, getting Kenneth Scott healthy and they were able to keep Tim Patrick under the radar until he made it to SLC. They even felt confident in their depth that they moved Hatfield from WR to DB. But something isn't clicking, and it needs to change quickly as the Utes head to the toughest stretch of the year, possibly the toughest five game stretch they have faced as members of the Pac12
Kimmel- The "we are due" argument that I've always hated, seems to be coming true. Utah is due.
Swinney- Dimick. Nate gets the pub, but Dimick has been more valuable on the line. He brings it every single play, consistently beats his blocker, and collapses the pocket. We knew he was a solid all-around player, but no one anticipated this kind of success rushing the passer.
Freshman of the Mid-Year
Cella- DT Lowell Lotulelei. As an out of shape true freshman, Lotulelei has really impressed since getting inserted into the starting lineup at UCLA. His ability to take on double teams reminds me of...well it's early to speculate, but he looks like he's got the tools to be scary good for a long time for the Utes.
Gorringe- S Andre Godfrey
Jones- Lotulelei. I can't imagine how good he is going to be as he matures and gets into better shape. It's looking like that time he spent with Star in Carolina is really paying off- he's well beyond where people expected him to be and he has a huge ceiling.
Kimmel- Lotulelei. The kid is well ahead of where Star was at the same point, but then again, Star was moving furniture. Point being, Lowell is good now, with a ceiling that is more or less on par with his big brother.
Swinney- Lotulelei. Another easy selection. He's been stellar for a kid that looks like he can't run more than 20 yards without getting winded. Imagine what he'll be like next season with an entire year of off-season conditioning.
Final Record Prediction
Cella- 7-5. The remaining schedule is brutal with the Utes likely facing ranked opponents in 5 of their final 6 games. 8-4 would be solid, 9-3 would be amazing, but 7-5 is realistic.
Kimmel- 7-5, winning the final two over Arizona and Colorado
Swinney- 7-5. 6 games left. 5 against pretty good teams. Outside of Colorado, all of these could legitimately be losses (although they could all be wins too with the way this season has gone). At some point, the magic will run out. 7-5 in this conference though and with this schedule is a pretty good year. Hopefully the fans remember that at the end of the season as the Utes set themselves up for a huge 2015.
Bowl Game Destination
Cella- Sun Bowl
Gorringe- Las Vegas Bowl
Jones- Catcus Bowl
Kimmel- Las Vegas Bowl
Swinney- Las Vegas Bowl
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