1. Who Is Going To Replace Nate Orchard?
It’s not easy replacing an all American and a guy that led the country in sacks per game, but the Utes will try to do it. Hunter Dimick assumes the role of best pass rusher on the team and he’ll draw a lot of attention, but a big reason for Nate’s success (and Dimick’s) in 2014 was that they were both so good and teams couldn’t stop both of them. Jason Fanaika, Pita Taumoepenu, and Kyle Fitts will battle it out for the starting spot and all bring something different to the table, giving John Pease and Kyle Whittingham lots of options.
2. Can The Utes Find Linebacker Depth?
The trio of Gionni Paul, Jared Norris, and Jason Whittingham looks like the best group of starting linebackers in the conference, at least on paper. All three have had injury issues with Paul and Whittingham missing quite a few games in 2014 and Norris playing hurt for most of the year. Behind them? There isn’t much in terms of guys that have proven themselves on the field, but JC transfer Sunia Tauteoli was impressive in the spring and Uaea Masina is healthy for the first time in a year. Both are going to need to be ready by the time Michigan rolls around.
3. Who Exactly Are Utah’s Corners?
Utah’s corner situation went from solid to highly questionable with the dismissal of all conference candidate Dominique Hatfield this summer. Ahmad Christian would be the likely starter in his place, but is going to miss at least the non-conference slate of games due to injury. Reggie Porter is coming off of an ACL injury that caused him to miss all of 2014 and may not be the same player he looked like he would be, but is still likely to hold onto his starting job. Brian Allen had a good spring, showing promise and is a big body, but still has some deficiencies in his game. Casey Hughes has developed at a quick rate than anticipated and could be ready to contribute with his ridiculous speed. JC transfer Cory Butler has only been playing corner for one year, but will get a long look. Tavaris Williams looks to have found a home at the corner spot, but struggled a ton in the spring and probably isn't ready yet. Regardless of who wins the job, Utah has options at corner, a new luxury that hasn't always been the case since joining the conference. The loss of Hatfield hurts and they won't be as good without him, but Whittingham and Shah will find someone in the large group of competitors they have.
4. Tevin Carter and…….?
Tevin Carter is healthy and will reassume his spot as one of the starters at safety. Who gets the nod next to him? Jason Thompson has made the switch over from quarterback and is the favorite to land the job, showing great speed, athleticism, and instincts in the spring, but he’s still very new to the position. Marcus Williams had a few starts in 2014 and surprised as a true freshman, but wasn’t as consistent as the Utes would have liked. Andre Godfrey probably has a higher ceiling than the previous two, but had limited reps in 2014 whole dealing with some injuries. Utah’s in a luxurious position though to be able to choose from three guys and will be comfortable with any of the three, each of whom should continue to improve as camp and the season carry on.
5. Is Pease Going To Be Rusty?
It’s been five years since John Pease has been on the sidelines, and now he’s going to be expected to jump in, design a defense, and call plays. The veteran ‘new’ DC is a film-room wizard and knows the defensive side of the game inside and out, but football has evolved at a tremendous rate the past few years and the Pac 12 is a completely different animal than the Mountain West. The fall scrimmages will be vital for Pease in getting back into a groove of calling plays at a rapid pace.
5 Questions For Fall Camp: Defense
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