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Utah Looks to Rebound With New Coach
T-Dawg Jenkins Takes Over Utes
Salt Lake City, UT- The Utah Utes have fallen on hard times in the past few years. The Athletic Department has been trying to recapture the magic that Urban Meyer was able to spark when he and Alex Smith became the first BCS buster's nearly a decade ago. They have cycled through several coaches, but for the first time they may have finally found the right man.
Coach T-Dawg Jenkins was able to build a solid winner at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, capturing the Sun Belt title all 3 years he was at the helm and leading the Ragin Cajuns to 2 Fiesta Bowl wins in 3 years. He is the most similar coach to Urban Meyer, both in terms of philosophy and success, that Utah has hired in recent years.
Last season the Utah squad finished the season on an 8 game losing skid to drop their final record to 2-10, and cement the firing of head coach Major Applewhite. That's when the Utes were able to grab Coach Jenkins. Coach Jenkins seemed to be looking for a way out of both the southeast and Mid-Major status, and after declining job offers from Missouri and Auburn the Alabama alum jumped at the chance to take over the newest member of the Pac 12.
Offensively Utah will look similar to the offense Urban Meyer sent onto the field. The QB will be a multi-faceted athlete adept at running and throwing, the running back will look to take advantage of the seams in the defense a running QB creates, and the WR will be expected to make big plays in the passing game to help the offense be more explosive. Coach Jenkins looks to have most of the right pieces in place for the first season, the challenge will be out recruiting Stanford for big, mauling run blockers, Oregon and Arizona for athletic QB's, USC for big athletic WR, and all of the above for the stars on defense that teams must have to be solid on defense in the offensively dominated PAC 12.
The triggerman for Utah this season will be 6'2" 207 pound junior Brandon Cox. Cox has been stashed on the bench the last few seasons and will finally get a chance to run the Utah offense following the departure of 2 senior QB's. He has the straight line speed to be a threat in the running game, but he lacks the wiggle of better scrambling QB's. His speed should open up seams in the defense for the 2 RB's junior Troy McCormick and sophomore Richard Lee. Both backs are power backs, but McCormick's size (5'9" 181 pounds) belies his ability to explode through opposing tacklers. Lee is a big bruising power back at 6'2" 229 pounds. Backing them up is true freshman Lui Silva. Silva was a late addition to the Utah class last season. Silva had no interest in the Utes until Coach Jenkins arrived in Salt Lake City, and then he couldn't get here fast enough. Silva is another power back in the backfield and the 5'11" 215 pound wrecking ball will be a load to bring down.
On the outside the WR are a good mix of speed and size. The #1 and #2 WR are lightning fast mighty mites who should be able to our run just about any defensive back they will face all season. Delshawn McClellon and Xavier Shepherd are 5'9 and 5'10 respectively and both will factor into the deep passing game. In the slot is a completely different style of WR altogether in 6'5 244 pound Harrison Handley. In many 3 WR sets Handley will move to the outside and let McClellon slide into the slot to be the Percy Harvin clone Coach Jenkins offense requires. Andy Sullivan will be the #4 WR, in ULL the ball got spread among all 4 main WR pretty equally, and Handley and Sullivan look like they have the skills to be very good posession type WR in Coach Jenkins offense. True freshman Nick Coe will be the TE, Coe was a holdover from the previous administration, but he has good size and speed and figures to be a good weapon both as a blocker and a receiver.
The defense will go as far as the mammoth line will take them. Coach Jenkins is happy to have the personnel to get back to his roots and run an attacking 4-3, and 3 of the front 4 will be over 300 pounds, and the 4th is 280 pound DE Hunter Dimick. The 3 big dogs are 6'4 325 pound DT Bruce Palmer, 6'2 310 pound DT Lowell Lotulelei, and Gaius Vaenuku who tops out at 6'5 307 pounds. Even the backups are huge. the first 2 DE off the bench and into the rotation are 6'5 308 pound Sam Tevi and 6'1 290 pound Brandon Perez. The first 2 DT off the bench will be 6'1 337 pound Johnathan Walker and 6' 284 Richard Newsome.
Behind the gigantic defensive line are a very thin line backing corps. Some is due to a lack of talent, and the rest is due to an extraordinary amount of redshirts. Junior Uaea Masina, senior Reshawn Hooker and junior Filipo Mokofisi will be the 3 in the 4-3. Hooker is a speedy cover LB who excels in space while Masina and Mokofisi will attack running lanes and cover the RB and TE. None of them are spectacular but in the 43 your stars should be on the DL and the 3 behind them should clean up whatever mess they let sneak behind them.
The defensive backfield is solid if unspectacular, but there are a few stars. Senior CB Justin Thomas and senior SS Joseph Bryant should be able to lead the rest of the unit and make sure they are able to contain the opposition's passing game. True freshman James Irby will be the starting FS, and the big freshman looks to make an impact. He is a bit raw, but has the athleticism to be an excellent player going forward. Dominique Hatfield will join Thomas as the #2 CB and junior Hipilito Corporan will be the slot corner in nickel and dime formations. This group is very balanced talent wise and should be an example of the whole being greater than the sum.
Utah has the pieces to make a run at the Pac 12 South title this season, and possibly compete for the Pac 12 championship. The offense should be exciting to watch, and could be one of the best in the country. Coach Jenkins has a history of taking seldom used players and putting them into position to be good pieces in the right positions. Utah fans are hungry and dying to support a winner. If Coach Jenkins can set Utah up to take over the Pac 12 the entrenched pipelines in California and Texas should be a huge help to him going forward. If not, all the pipelines in the world won't be able to save him from the fans. The defense has the potential to be one of the top units in the conference, and if Utah wants to make a run they will have to be the leaders.
My prediction for Utah this season is 9 or 10 wins and a near Pac 12 south championship. Anything over and above that will be gravy for Ute fans.
Year 4 of the coach Lump Lump era has begun in Denton. This might be the best team in the history of the program. This team fields 22 seniors as leadership shouldn't be an issue this season. everyone involved in the organization including coaches, fans, and alumni are excited about the upcoming season and especially the next 4 years as the Daniel Reid era kicks off. The Mean Green return 8 starters on offense and all 11 starters on defense. Anything short of a C-USA championship would be a great disappointment for the Mean Green and Coach Lump Lump
QB/ Daniel Reid is a 6'7" 240 RFr QB from Ferguson, MO who looks to take the program to the next level. Reid sat under QB B. Berglund last year to learn everything about the offense. Reid has good speed and should run the offense better Berglund as he is more of a threat on the ground. SR Jordan Gill will get some snaps too as coach Lump Lump ran a 2 QB system is spring practice. Gill has little experience as he sat behind Berglund for 3 years. Gill has excellent accuracy and should see a lot of the field.
HB/ This unit steps down a notch but JR Lorenzo Heath returns as the starter. Heath had a down year last year compared to his FR year but should bounce back as he will get more of the carries this year. the only other back with experience is SO Dennis Lamb.
WR/ SR Nick Schrapps lead the team in receptions last year and should be a favorite target of Reid and Gill. Marcel Ateman at 6'4" 194 is a big target and had a good year last year. Lancaster, Foster, and Tyler will work the inside for this passing game
The O-Line will start 5 SRs across the line as the experience should be very helpful for this offense
The D-Line returns intact as SO Fred Mack mans the middle of the 3-4 while DEs Beanum and Davis return who both had productive seasons last year.
all 4 LBs return with SO Gore and Franklin who plays the outside and both looked very good a year ago. JR X. Phillips returns in the middle who led the team in tackles last year. JR Robbie Lewis returns also.
Secondary/ All 4 players return Adams and Thornton return at CB. Thornton led the team in INTs. At FS is Schilleci is a SR and played big time last year. and the leader of the defense SS Nicky Baratti returns for his SR campaign.
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