2009 Utah Utes Football Preview
2008 Record: (5-7, 2-6)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: Mike Sanford (11-36 at Utah, 11-36 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Todd Berry
Defensive Coordinator: Dennis Therrell
Other Key Returnees: OT Zane Beadles, S Joe Dale, DT Kenape Eliapo, LB Nai Fotu, TE Chris Joppru, DE Koa Misi, G Caleb Schlauderaff, DT Derrick Shelby, C Zane Taylor
Key Losses: WR Freddie Brown, WR Brent Casteel, G Robert Conley, WR Bradon Godfrey, OT Dustin Hensel, QB Brian Johnson, DE Paul Kruger, RB Darrell Mack, CB Brice McCain, DT Greg Newman, K/P Louie Sakoda, CB Sean Smith
The 2008 season was certainly a memorable one for Utah. The Utes finished up the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record, but failed to reach the BCS National Championship game. Instead, they were relegated to the Sugar Bowl where they had to take on a strong Utah team. Utah put up 31 points and handed the Crimson Tide a crushing defeat. That capped off a great season, but it also raised questions as to whether or not the Utes should have been playing for a championship.
But now most of that offense is gone and the Utes will have to rely on their defense to win games. With eight starters back on a team that ranked second in the conference, behind TCU, in total defense, the unit should be able to keep this team reaching for more BCS games. The departure of end Paul Kruger and corner Sean Smith is a concern, but Coach Kyle Whittingham has plenty of other weapons to build around. Linebackers Stevenson Sylvester and Mike Wright are ready to become team leaders and the secondary has plenty of talent with safeties Joe Dale and Robert Johnson. The concern is replacing Kruger and his 7.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles-for-loss. Utah tallied over 2.2 sacks per game and finding somebody else to get consistent pressure on the quarterback will be a necessity.
The offense lost so much talent from last year’s team. Brian Johnson was a steady quarterback and his favorite targets, Freddie Brown, Brent Casteel and Bradon Godfrey are also gone. So is running back Darrell Mack, who rushed for 504 yards and three touchdowns. The good news is Matt Asiata has proven that he can carry the load on the ground after rushing for a team high 707 yards and 12 touchdowns. Add Sausan Shakerin to the mix and this is a team with a couple quality rushers. With three starters back on the offensive line, led by tackle Zane Beadles, the Utes will have to rely on the ground game while the passing attack adjusts to life without Johnson. At one point Corbin Louks was expected to be the next in line at quarterback, but he is unproven. If he falters, junior college transfer Terrance Cain or freshman Jordan Wynn have to step up.
The Bottom Line for the Utes:
Last year was the year for Utah. The losses on offense are too great for this group to make another undefeated run. The quarterback situation has to sort itself out and Aiona Key needs to develop into a consistent wide receiver. Coach Whittingham has enough talent to win the Mountain West Conference again, but this season will not be quite as magical as last year was.
By Joel Welser
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