2014 Ute Sports Report Football Awards

The USR staff reveals their winners from the 2014 football season

Team MVP
P Tom Hackett
He's the best punter in the country and will win the Ray Guy Award. Tom Hackett has a right foot like college football has never seen with his ability to make the ball kick back or die inside the 5. One of the best punting seasons in college football history out of Hackett was the difference between not bowling and 8 wins. He was that good and that valuable.
Others Receiving Votes: DE Nate Orchard

Offensive Most Valuable Player
RB Devontae Booker The offensive MVP didn't get his first start until week 5 of the season and still managed to rush for well over 1,300 yards, just narrowly missing out of the Pac 12 regular season rushing title. Without Booker, this offense may have been shutout a few times.
Others Receiving Votes: OL CJ Poutasi

Defensive Most Valuable Player
DE Nate Orchard If Gionni Paul had played all season, this might have been his award, but Orchard set all kinds of Utah records with his sack-master season in notching 17.5 sacks and 81 tackles, good for second on the team. Bored? Go watch Nate against UCLA and Stanford. He massacred a couple of guys that will be in the NFL next season, including a first round pick in Andrus Peat. Team's couldn't pass at times because of how good he was, and the senior got better and better as the season wore on.
Others Receiving Votes: LB Gionni Paul

Special Teams Most Valuable Player
P Tom Hackett
See above
Others Receiving Votes:KR/PR Kaelin Clay

Offensive Coach of the Year
OL Coach Jim Harding
No unit on the team improved more over the course of the season than the offensive line. After a slow start where some were already calling for his head, Harding's line turned into a strength, especially in the run game where they helped turn Devontae Booker a weekly 100 yard plus rusher. With 4.5 starters slotted to come back, they'll be even better next season. Others Receiving Votes: RB Coach Dennis Erickson

Defensive Coach of the Year
Defensive Coordinate Kalani Sitake Was their really any question? He's arguably the best DC in the conference and one of the best in the country. Teams will be hammering on his door to either run their D or take over their program as the head guy this offseason. Sitake makes in-game adjustments as well as anyone and continues to out-scheme other teams. Suffered a bit late in the season when the defensive depth was severely tested, but this guy is as good as it gets.
Others Receiving Votes: None

Offensive Freshman of the Year
OL Leka Uhatafe
Not a lot of options to choose from on offense, but Leka made his way into the starting lineup and was part of the rotational guard unit that improved as the season went along. Has quite a bit of upside and will be a full-time starter next season.
Others Receiving Votes: None

Defensive Freshman of the Year
DL Lowell Lotulelei
For a guy that's still out of shape, Lowell Lotulelei was tremendous, snatching up a starting spot early in the year and never letting go. He's a true freshman that was commanding double teams by the end of the season and was stronger and more physical than many of his counterparts. Could end up being even better than his big brother. Yeah, I said it.
Others Receiving Votes: S Marcus Williams

Biggest Win
Others Receiving Votes: vs USC

Beating USC was a hump that a lot of fans wanted to get over, and it was a big win at Rice-Eccles, but UCLA was a top 10 team, playing at home, and coming off of a 34 point pasting of Arizona State on the road. This one should never have been this close as the Utes outplayed the Bruins for 45 minutes and overcame a furious rally and some questionable officiating to get the giant win.

Toughest Loss
vs Washington State
Up 21-0 midway through the first quarter at home against one of the worst team in the conference and you'd think the Utes would cruise. Instead, they went vanilla on offense and vanilla on defense in blowing a game to a team that would win only 3 contests all season. The more you look back on it, the more shocking it is. The one positive to come out of that game though was the coaches finally realizing that Booker was their best back.
Others Receiving Votes: vs Arizona and at Arizona State

Biggest Surprise
Cella- Utah's defensive line. Many saw the line as a weakness coming into the season and yet they finished with 52 sacks (overall defensive total) with Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick proving to be among the best in the conference. Few saw that coming.

Gorringe- Hunter Dimick

Jones- Gionni Paul/Jared Norris/Jason Fanaika are really, really, really good. I had high expectations for them this season and they surpassed where I thought they would be and how important they actually were.

Swinney- The defense. With all of the injuries that mounted on the defensive side of the ball, Sitake's unit looked like it wouldn't be up to snuff this season. Instead, they were as good as they've been since 2008. By the end of the season there were depth issues, but the first 9 games were highly impressive and the reason that Sitake is likely on his way to being the head man somewhere.

Biggest Disappointment
Cella-Utah wasn't able to beat either Arizona schools and now has a lost 7 of 8 against ASU/U of A since joining the conference.

Gorringe- Passing Game

Jones- The offensive production, which saw the Utes finish last in the Pac12 in total offense.

Kimmel- The receivers and lack of overall offensive success.

Swinney- The offense. It's hard to put it on one player or area, but the quarterback play as a whole was poor, the offensive line was poor for half the season, the wide receivers were average at best, and the tempo that was supposed to be increased was slower than last year. If Utah had any sort of offense, they could have started out 9-0. Instead, they were 6-3.

Season Summary
Cella- No matter how you slice it, 2014 was a raging success, especially considering all of the challenges Utah faced this season with injuries, a brutal schedule (ranked as one of the toughest in the nation) and an offense that is not only below average, but down right dreadful at times. An 8-4 record (5-1 on the road) is an astounding accomplishment and credit to the players, most of which gave everything that had on every play to get Utah to this point. The coaches work these guys hard and prepare them like crazy, but at the end of the day, it's players that execute on the field and many of them like Norris, Hatfield, Dielman, Faniaka, Aiono, and Dimick, just to name a few, stepped up their game and paved the way for an eight win season.

Gorringe- If you had said at the beginning of the season that Utah would beat UCLA, USC, Stanford and Michigan, while going 8-4, I would have said it would have been one of the most successful seasons in Utah history. While that's still somewhat true, it's hard not to imagine "what if." An inexplicable 1 point home loss to Wazzu and a 3 point OT loss to Arizona State kept Utah out of a New Years 6 bowl game, and it's all due to offensive inefficiencies and poor QB play.....again. It was a great season for Utah, but boy it could have been so much better with just an average QB. Maybe next year right?

Jones- The Utes exceeded expectations in 2014, which says a lot, because as a fan you can still look back and say 'what if'. Utah finally proved they can go on the road and win a meaningful game and finished an incredible 5-1 on the road, but just 3-3 at home (I blame the fans for not showing up on time). Utah had huge bright-spots: special teams, front seven, #SackLakeCity, Booker and the offensive line wearing teams out, but also had huge areas of concern: wide receivers, quarterback, losing too often at RES and going 0 for Arizona. Utah Football is better in 2014 than it was in 2013, and far better than it was in 2012, which is good news for Utah fans. Earning a bowl bid is a giant step in the right direction and giving this young team more practice time will be huge for the 2015 campaign. End the year the right way with a win and next season should be even better than the last.

Kimmel- Kalani Sitake has drawn praise from across the Pac12. Arizona State, Oregon, and USC coaches are praised him after game, calling him the best DC out West. He proved that just about every week. The would bend, but rarely did they break. The special teams game was also masterful the majority of the time. Outside of the ground game, I wouldn't mind forgetting the offense, forever. #SackLakeCity

Swinney- The Utes won 8 games, knocking off multiple heavyweight along the way. It wasn't always pretty, but backed by the running game, a tough defense, and unreal special teams, the Utes are bowling again. Can't classify this anything more than a giant success.

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