Every year there is at least some unknown going into fall camp. This year is no different and I believe these questions will have to be answered in order for the Utes to have a successful 2007 season.
Will Utah find a running game?
The Utes had a very inconsistent running game last year that most likely cost them at least 3 of their 5 losses. This is probably the biggest question mark for the offense and the most vital part to that offense having success. If Matt Asiata struggles and Utah can't find a serviceable back, the Utes might again struggle putting up points and forming long, sustaining drives against most decent defenses .
Will Brian Johnson not only return to his '05 form, but improve on it?
While Johnson was nearly fantastic in 2005, there were some issues he had throughout the season. Most of those issues revolved around redzone play and holding onto the ball during integral parts of the option. Utah's offense had a very inconsistent quarterback last year and it cost them, they will need Johnson to play consistently to have a successful season. That means returning to his 2005 perform, yet not making nearly as many mistakes as he did two seasons ago.
How will the offensive line look?
Was Utah's lack of a running game because the offensive line couldn't create the holes for Darryl Poston, or was it because Poston is not the answer at the running back position? The answer to that question might also provide the answer to the questions surrounding this year's offensive line. For Utah to have a running game, they will need the offensive line to step up and create the holes needed for big runs. If they don't, it might not matter how good of a back Asiata is.
Who will replace Eric Weddle?
Eric Weddle had a huge impact on Utah's defense last year, yet even with how good of a player he was, the defense struggled. Now they will need to replace him and improve the defense at the same time. Doable? Possibly, but don't count on it. So who can replace Weddle? No one and that's just how it is. Let's face the facts, Weddle was a phenomenal player here and his impact will make it difficult to replace what he brought to the Utah defense. However Sean Smith is athletic, quick and big and might be serviceable enough where Utah doesn't see such a dramatic drop off from last year.
How will the linebackers look?
There is senior leadership at the linebackers spot, however the Utes struggled here last season, so who knows if that will be enough to make this group solid. Joe Jiannoni, along with Kyle Brady and Malakai Mokofisi, will need to step up, especially in the absence of Eric Weddle on the defensive end. They also need to step up and show why senior leadership is a much needed asset in college football. However lack of depth could be an issue for Utah, which means if there are injuries -- which seems to be inevitable -- the Utes could be in a world of hurt.
Will there be pressure from the defensive line this year?
Utah has been known for its stingy, blitzing defenses in years past, however last season the defensive line failed to put pressure on the quarterback. And losing Paul Soliai to graduation definitely won't help matters. Yet the line also returns seniors Gabe Long and Martail Burnett, however it's a question whether they will be good enough to even get this group at the level they were in 2006. Which wasn't very good in the first place.
Will Utah effectively prepare for Oregon State?
Kyle Whittingham was known for his ability to prepare for games weeks in advance. The Utes' impeccable record in bowl games and at the start of the season with Whittingham on the staff was evidence of this. However that view took a big hit after the Utes rolled over in last year's opener against UCLA. If Utah is going to set the tone for a good season, they will need to play far better than they did a year ago against UCLA. If they don't bring their A game to Corvallis, with this schedule, it could be a long season.
Utah should have a great offense, but it's the defense I'm most worried about. That could be the difference between a 7-6 season and an 11-2, Mountain West Conference championship season.