GambitUte has a great preview of Utah's 2009 season. This Part I, you can read Part II here.
Welcome Ute fans. This is my first attempt at a blog here on this site so please don't give me too much flak if I totally suck. Please forgive me for my poor grammar skills, I'll try my best to make my points the best way I can.
Although it seems a little bit premature to make a season preview before camp is finished, I thought I'd do it anyway. The primary purpose of this post is to give my thoughts on potential starters and a brief review how I believe the season will go.
I believe it goes without saying that this year will be very different from last years undefeated campaign. with several holes in both offense and defense, the Utes will have to step up their game. With that said , I personally believe the circumstances of this year are very different from the 2004-05 transition. We still have a great coach and loads of talent to continue our success in the MWC.
MY GRADE- B-
With the loss of senior Brian Johnson, the question who will play under center is the greatest hole the Utes have to fill, however unlike 2005 (no offense BJ) the Utes do have some good options to step up and keep the Utes competitive.
The most likely candidate to claim the job will be junior Corbin Louks, who played as Johnsons backup last year. We already know that Louks can run the ball but the two biggest questions that Louks will have to answer is how good is his throwing game and how well he will adjust to the full-time starter role in the Utes spread attack. Even though Louks has been facing some tough competition in camp, I believe he will be the man who starts.
Behind Louks is some potentially good talent as well in highly heralded JC recruit Terrance Cain and surprise freshman Jordan Wynn. I see Cain playing in the backup role and Wynn possibly being used similar to Louks last year in special packages to take advantage of his good arm strength.
MY GRADE- B
The role of tailbacks are usually less vital in most spread option attacks, however the tailbacks at Utah have played a key role in the offense as well, In terms of overall talent, I think this area is one of Utah better strengths going into camp even with the loss of Darrell Mack.
Leading the pack is senior Matt Asiata who shared carry duties with Mack last year. Asiata showed great numbers (146 carries for 707 yards.) and I believe he will do even better with the full time role. Even though Asiata isn't the fastest tailback in the league he still is a big bruiser that fights for every yard.
MY GRADE- A-
Receivers play a huge role in the grand offense scheme at Utah, even though the Utes lost a lot of talent at receiver (namely Brent Casteel) this years receiving corps looks pretty good too.
Returning starters include Seniors David Reed, John Peel and Aiona Key, junior Jereme Brooks and athlete DeVonte Christopher. Reed showed a lot of speed and toughness last year (not to mention good kick return skills) , I see him becoming Utah's go-to guy at WR. Even though he showed up late in the season, Key played a big role as well. With his academic issues solved, I believe he can also become a dangerous option. Making the move from QB last year , I think Christopher can take advantage of his athleticism.
The loss of Robert Conley will hurt the Utes a lot but I think Utah has good talent coming back, (which will help tremendously in the development of a new QB). Senior Zane Beadles leads the way in a talented line, other key returning starters include Zane Taylor and Caleb Schlauderaff. Much of the success of 2009 will greatly depend on the performance of this group.
MY GRADE- C+
It could be easily argued that the biggest question the Utes have to answer (besides who will play QB) is who will replace fan favorite Louie "King Louie" Sakoda at Kicker.
The likely candidate is returning senior Ben Vroman, who was the Utes kickoff man last year. Vroman has great leg strength but it remains to be seen if he can handle the full-time duties of kicker. Another name that could make some noise is newcomer Nick Marsh. Because several of Utah games last year were decided by field goals, the play making ability will be key in 2009 (especially in a potential transitional year like this one).
MY GRADE- B+
The loss of Paul Kruger and Greg Newman will really hurt the Utes but Utah has a lot of potential coming into 2009. Most of the buzz at defensive line is around JC newcomer James Aiono, provided academic issues don't derail him Aiono could be a great start in filling the hole left by Kruger. Other retuning starters who could make a big impact include Koa Misi, Derrick Shelby, David Kruger (Paul's brother), and Kenape Eliapo. The Utes also have a load of potential talent in the freshman class this year (most notably Latu Heimuli)
A lot of utah's success was made in the defense and the Utes ability to pressure opposing QB's. Even though Utah had some trouble at DT (mostly due to injuries) last year, the Utes look pretty deep coming into 2009.
The Utes also have good talent at Linebacker as well. familiar faces returning include senior stud Stevenson Sylvester, Nai Fotu and Kepa Gaison. Sylvester looks to lead the pack after a great performance last year and will be one of the key leaders on defense,plus Senior Mike Wright should be solid at middle linebacker. Another name who could make some noise is J.J. Williams
MY GRADE- B
Even with the loss of Sean Smith, the Utes defense at secondary still looks pretty strong. Leading the way are senior safeties Robert Johnson and Joe Dale. Johnson was a key player in the Utes defensive effort in the sugar bowl (getting 2 INTs) and looks to be another one of the main leaders on defense. The biggest question is how well Utah's cornerbacks will do with the loss of Sean Smith and Brice McCain. Look for speedsters R.J. Stanford and Brandon Burton to fill the starting roles. The Utes also hope that JC recruits Kamaron Yancy, Conroy Black and Maxwell Lacy will have an instant impact at CB. Another name to look out for is newcomer Chris Washington
All in all the Utes have a lot of talent for 2009, I think another undefeated season is too much to ask for with the question mark at QB but nevertheless, I believe the Utes have enough talent to contend for another MWC crown. The road games at TCU, Oregon and BYU will be the biggest games that will make or break the 2009 season.
Well folks, that concludes part 1 of my 2009 preview, next time for part 2 , I'll give my take on the schedule and how I think the season will go game by game.