On Monday the preseason camp started for the Utah Utes, and just as every preseason camp before this one, there were some positives and negatives to come out of the first four days. A lot has happened already so let’s dive into it.
I will start with the quarterback position, which as we all know has been a position riddled with tumult during the past couple seasons. Travis Wilson was put into the spotlight last year after an injury to Jordan Wynn made him the starting quarterback. Wilson posted a 3-4 record as a starter last year completing over 60% of his passes.
Taking into account that this was his freshman season, I would say this isn’t half bad. Wilson shows promise heading into the 2013 season, and even though the starting quarterback job is his to lose, he is approaching the fall camp as if he still has something to prove. This is a smart move on his part seeing how incoming freshmen Connor Manning and Brandon Cox have been performing very well at camp thus far.
One of the things Travis Wilson has going for him is that he has a couple of great receivers to throw to. Juniors Kenneth Scott and Dres Anderson have shown that they are, without doubt, the top two receivers the Utes have right now. Last year they collectively went for 714 receiving yards, even amid all of the quarterback drama. As long as Wilson is effective, these two receivers are poised to have breakout years. Behind them is senior Anthony Denham, whose career has been plagued by injuries. He has been performing well at camp so far and if Utah can keep him healthy, the 6-foot-4, 222-pound receiver could prove to have a large impact on the Utes offense.
Last year I was scared stiff about our offensive line, and so was the rest of the Utes community due to some key injuries and our lack of depth at the position. This year, however, is another story. The Utes offensive line is big and deep. Sporting a gaggle of 300-pounders, Kyle Wittingham believes that the offensive line will be one of the Utah’s strong suits this year. 6-foot-5, 345-pound Jeremiah Poutasi is already being touted as an All-American prospect for the left tackle position by some reporters. Poutasi will most likely be joined by fellow 300-pounders Jeremiah Tofaeono at left guard, Vyncent Jones at center, Junior Salt at right guard, and Siaosi Aiono will man the right tackle position. Since the offensive line is so deep this year, however, these tentative positions can change at a moment’s notice.
Some guy is going to have some big shoes to fill after John White’s departure from the running back position last year. As of right now it looks like this lucky man is going to be 5-foot-11, 223-pound Kelvin York who was the team’s second leading rusher last year. He is a powerful downhill runner and defenses will have a tough time bringing him down. While York has the starting spot for now, there is undeniably some talent in the depth chart at running back. Freshman Troy McCormick has been turning some heads at camp, and with 3 or 4 other high quality backs, the Utes may have to reminisce about the glory days of John White a little less now.
The defensive line at Utah has always been a big strength. Even after losing 3 starters on the D-line, including All-American Star Lotulelei, Kyle Wittingham is still confident that Utah will have one of the best defensive lines in the PAC-12. Trevor Rilley, Nate Orchard, and Tenny Palepoi all return as starters to the defensive line, giving Utah some experience at the position. Some young talent will join them, including incoming Freshman Sam Tevi, who was a highly recruited defensive lineman out of Texas.
The first few days of camp have shown promise at the defensive back and linebacker positions, but it has also shown loss. Reshawn Hooker, a linebacker who potentially would have played at safety, ended his college football career today after receiving his third concussion. Also, Brian Blechen who was appearing to be the Utes’ star at the linebacker position may be forced to redshirt this year. He has been plagued by tendinitis in his knee, and right now it is not known whether he will play this year or not.
The Utes are looking pretty thin at the linebacker position, especially if Blechen is unable to play. One man who would be able to fill Blechen’s role would be University of Miami transfer Gionni Paul. It is still unclear whether or not he will be able to play this season, but if he is, look for him to have a great year. He started 7 of the last 8 games for the ‘Canes and recorded 61 tackles last year.
At the cornerback position Utah will undoubtedly be young. After losing their top cornerbacks from the last season, guys will have to step up. Wittingham thinks we have the talent to do so, so for right now “In Wittingham We Trust.” The cornerback position will be the most interesting to watch this preseason as there is some great young talent like redshirt freshmen Justin Thomas and Reginald Porter, competing with the older guys who are looking for that starting spot.
The Utes have great potential this season, and with the team looking better and better after each day at preseason camp, we have a chance to have a breakout year rather than just a rebuilding one.