Discussion in 'The Flashback' started by hornfaninbama, Mar 11, 2014.
I know we aren't quite done yet. But if I don't do this now I won't do it.
Utah Looks Back
Salt Lake City, UT- Last season, Coach Jenkins’s first at the helm, Utah exploded back onto the national scene. A BCS bowl win, and a Pac-12 title showed that Utah could compete on the highest level of the automatic qualifying conferences. This season the Utes took a step back, but could still finish with 10 wins and will go to a bowl game for the second consecutive season. If they can win out they should also finish in the Top 20, and possibly higher.
Utah may have burst onto the scene a year or 2 early, “I expected to be able to come in and compete for conference titles right away, but to only lose one game last season exceeded even my expectations. There was a lot more talent on the roster than I expected from a 4 win team, and they played to the expectations we set for them.” This season Utah had a horrendous start, losing 3 of their first 4 games, before rebounding to run off 6 straight (with matchups against Washington State and Colorado to come, both winnable games,) Utah’s only loss in conference is to a USC squad currently in the top 10 with the Heisman Trophy favorite playing in the backfield. In fact looking at Utah’s losses this season (LSU, North Texas, and USC) all 3 are in the Top 25, and all 3 should play for their conference championship this season.
The reason Utah has gotten to the point they have is due to some exceptional performances from some very good players. Troy McCormick has used his senior season to add to his already impressive career numbers, Richard Lee has shown he will be ready to take over as the #1 running back next season; and an offensive line that had never played together has gelled as the season went on. While Brandon Cox is injured he played a great first half of the season before going down for the remainder of the year. The next man up was true freshman Matt Harris who has played very well despite expecting to redshirt this season.
Brandon Cox came into the season with high hopes. He was being touted as a mid round draft pick, and he knew with a great season he could play himself into discussion for a first round slot. He started off very well until he was injured. Cox will finish the season with 1900 yards passing 18 TD’s and 8 interceptions and another 400 yards on the ground. He was showing the entire country that last season wasn’t a fluke and that he is the real deal. The bad thing for Cox is that instead of going down as one of the best quarterbacks in Utah history he will go down as the man who was Wally Pipped by Matt Harris. Harris has thrown for over 700 yards and rushed for more than 400 in only 3 games as the starter. If he keeps up this pace it will be 3 more seasons before we see anyone else take meaningful snaps in the Utah backfield. “We couldn’t be happier with how both of these guys have played. I wish Cox hadn’t gotten hurt because he is a very special player, but we knew Harris could play and it’s been exciting to see him show it. Brandon always did the right thing and learned how to play QB over the last few seasons. We are very proud of where he came from and where he is headed. I know he will make an excellent QB in the NFL.”
While Brandon Cox’s place in Utah lore is far from settled, Troy McCormick’s is set. He will go down as the best RB in Utah history. He should catch the career rushing record over the final 3 games of the season, he already owns the single season rushing mark, and he has set the career and single season TD records. He did this in, mostly, 2 seasons. Despite his small stature McCormick is a punishing runner with just enough speed to break long runs, especially when the defense loses track of him on option plays. It should be interesting to see how Richard Lee and Lui Silva make out in the backfield and whether Eugene Kilpatrick will be able to parlay his speed and athletic ability into a spot in the rotation next season. “Troy has been one of my favorite players to coach. Every once in a while you get these ‘bulldogs’ in football. Guys who fight harder than you would expect, and who outperform their size and physical limitations. He is all heart, and it’s always a pleasure to coach guys like that.”
In the passing game junior wide out Peter Haley has given the Utah fans hope for next season. Despite being the #3 receiver on the roster he has become Matt Harris’s favorite target. He is sure handed with good route running skills and just enough speed to break away from defensive backs. He has 700 yards and 5 TD’s with only 3 drops. He’ll need some exceptional games over the rest of the season, but he could become Coach Jenkins’s first 1000 yard receiver at the NCAA level. “I am very happy for Peter’s success this year. We needed him to step up and show he’s ready for the #1 or #2 slot next season and he has done that. We’ll work on refining some things this year, and hopefully he will be ready to excel next season.” Nick Coe has kind of been the forgotten man in the passing game. The sophomore tight end has shown he’s more than a fullback moonlighting. He may not be the tallest at 6 feet, but he is an excellent weapon in the passing game and he is second on the team in receiving this season.
Utah should be a better team next season. Over the last few weeks the offense has been more explosive than at any other point the last 2 seasons. And some of the younger players who have been playing will only get better with experience. Matt Harris is the most obvious candidate, but Utah has recruited well the past few seasons, and the younger guys will finally get a chance to show what they can do.
At halfback Lui Silva and Eugene Kilpatrick will compete for playing time next season. Silva played some his freshman year, but depth dictated he take a redshirt season this year. Silva is a big, bruising power back from Oklahoma and when he’s paired with Richard Lee will give Utah two 220 plus pound backs in the backfield. Kilpatrick is a true freshman scat back taking his redshirt season this year. Kilpatrick is slippery, fast, and has exceptional juke moves that routinely leave defenders grasping for air. Kilpatrick played several positions in high school so he is raw as a running back, but if he gets a chance he could be electric. Incoming freshman Brandon Jackson will almost assuredly redshirt, but the 230 pounder from Whittier, CA is the prototype power back Coach Jenkins has been looking for. Be on the lookout for him in a few seasons. (I really can’t wait to put him next to Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick has 95 speed, 96 juke, and 96 spin. Jackson has 92 trucking and 92 stiff arm with 90 speed. With Harris in between them, likely around 95 speed by then...the thought of the 3 of them together may keep me around despite any offers)
Wide receiver is set to make the biggest jump next season. Only one player from the position group graduates, and he is a big loss, literally. But Utah has a few players coming back who should be able to step in and make good contributions. Peter Haley will return and so will #1 WR Andy Sullivan, add in Leroy Jones and redshirting former 5 star Eric Rivera and Utah looks pretty solid. The Utes are also in good position with 2 very good recruits, Junior college transfer Bradley Carey who will come in as a 6’5” 210 pound junior and Tyrone Banks a 6 foot tall 4 star out of Texas. In all likelihood Carey would play immediately and Banks would redshirt, either way that will give Utah 5 very good WR, plus Nick Coe who is playing the 5th WR role this season.
On the offensive line Utah will lose both tackles, but after moving some players around will still be solid, if unspectacular in the trenches. Redshirting freshman Stephen Arnold will play the right tackle slot (76 now should be around 80) next season, and “Mammoth Malcolm” Clancy will shift inside to guard (76 now should be around 80), current left guard Jonathan Morris (82 hoping for about 85) will move outside to left tackle, Damian Harris (78 maybe 80 next year) will move somewhere to provide depth. All the moving around is to attempt to have all 3 incoming offensive linemen redshirt. It shouldn’t be too hard, Utah will have 3 good guards, 2 good tackles and 1 good center on the roster before the incoming freshmen make it onto campus. It’s just difficult to visualize right now. Projecting a starting lineup this early is always difficult, but it looks like: LT- Jonathan Morris LG- Malcolm Clancy C- Chaz Tolbert RG- Jerome Carrington RT Stephen Arnold. That will leave Damian Harris as a swing lineman who could play anywhere on the line, leave some depth, and let George Horne, Luke Ray, and Greg Edwards all redshirt. It’s always my goal to redshirt linemen. I hate playing them as freshmen because they almost never leave early and it feels like a wasted year of development.
On defense Utah looks to make the shift in philosophy to a 335 next season. They have been preparing for the jump for 2 seasons and it looks like they finally have the players in place to make it happen. Utah will be replacing 7 starters on the defensive side of the ball, and almost all of those slots will go to redshirt freshmen.
Gaius Vaenuku and Sam Tevi are the last of the oversize defensive ends and their slots will be taken by Greg Ross and redshirting freshman Joe Harris. There is a little depth behind them, but it will be bolstered if Utah signs its current defensive end target Tyler Riley. Bruce Palmer will be back to play the nose tackle in the 335 alignment, and Palmer at 6’4” 327 pounds should be able to eat up 2 blockers like he will be asked to. Jonathan Walker will be the immediate backup to Palmer and the 6’1” 340 pounder will be able to handle the duty.
Two linebackers will move on next season Uaea Masina and Filipo Mokofisi and when they leave they will leave gaping holes in the alignment. Jamie Adams, Jason McKenzie, and Antonio Alexander will likely be the linebackers next season. Alexander and McKenzie will be juniors next season, and Adams will be a sophomore. The depth behind them will be young, and not exceptionally talented, but the strength upfront and in the defensive backfield should help mitigate it some. None of the 3 have exceptional physical gifts, but they all have decent size and speed.
Moving outside to corner, Dominique Hatfield and Hipolito Corporan (All-Name Team All-Star if I’ve ever seen one) will both graduate which will leave holes for the oversized corners Utah signed last season, Greg Timmons and Will Stephens. Timmons and Stephens are both 6’3” and around 200 pounds. They play off each other well. Timmons is a much better zone defender, while Stephens will mature into a lockdown man cover corner. Behind them will be a few players who have been on the roster for the past few seasons, but haven’t seen significant time. This won’t necessarily be a strength for the defense, but having 2 oversize corners will make a big difference as they mature. Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks have shown that big corners can thrive and Utah wants to play ball the same way.
Moving to the 335 means Utah will have to have 2 strong safeties on the field. Utah has been preparing for this day for 2 seasons so they have some good players at strong safety on the roster. The catch is that 3 of them are juniors, and one is a redshirting freshman. Star Anthony Kelly should be back to lead the unit. Kelly has good size at 6’1” 215 pounds and is excellent in pass coverage, with the physicality to come up and play well in run defense. Lance Hall will undoubtedly be the #2 SS, he is a little bigger and a little slower, but is much better getting off blocks, and since he is a converted linebacker he plays more like a linebacker safety hybrid. One big plus with Hall is that he is excellent at jamming WR at the line, which will help in coverage against smaller, faster slot receivers. The immediate backup for both safeties will most likely be Kenard Godfrey. Godfrey is redshirting this season, but has the size and speed to make an impact when he makes it onto the field. Coach Jenkins likes to look at the 335 more like a 3(3.5) (4.5) meaning one safety is more essentially half linebacker, and half defensive back. Hall will fill that role this coming season. At free safety James Irby will get the nod. Irby is big at 211 pounds, but fast enough to make any play deep. He is better in zone coverage than man coverage, but as a safety that’s to be expected. He will be a redshirt sophomore next season and should be able to hold down the spot for a few seasons.
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