The University of Utah football team released their latest depth chart today, and there were some interesting developments.
After his performance against UCLA, the most obvious development is that Kendal Thompson is listed as OR with the incumbent Travis Wilson. Our own Shane is pretty happy with this, as he asserted Monday (see The U Fan Cast) that this was his preferred course of action, not letting Oregon State know for whom to prepare. However, Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said he wouldn't make the announcement publicly, which implies the offense knows. The fact that Thompson, who has been listed as the backup since the start of fall camp is now listed as the co-starter should be a message to Wilson.
And speaking of messages, former walk-on wide receiver Tim Patrick is now listed as the co-starter with Kenneth Scott. Message? Definitely. After the UCLA game in which Scott, normally a sure-handed wideout, dropped several passes, it's nice to see the coaches enforcing some accountability. Will Patrick, a junior, trot out on the opening offensive series in Corvallis? Probably not, but it may just light a fire under the starting wide receivers to start catching the passes they're thrown.
On the defensive side of the ball, one interesting thing to note is that seniors Brian Blechen and Tevin Carter are both being backed up by freshmen, namely Marcus Williams (6-foot, 179) and Andre Godfrey (5-10, 190). This is definitely good for the quick development of the young talent, but also shows the need for added depth along the defensive secondary. Fellow freshmen Boobie Hobbs (5-10, 175, nickel back) and Christian Drews (6-1, 223, rover linebacker) are also making their presence felt.
The depth chart only lists two linebackers, a mac and a rover position, seeming to indicate the team will stick with a 4-2-5 look, at least against Oregon State. Miami stud transfer Gionni Paul is listed at the mac position, with Jared Norris at the rover spot. While Utah can always drop senior defensive end Nate Orchard into the outside linebacker spot for different alignments and situations, the loss of Uaea Masina to a season-ending injury will be felt in the already thin linebacking corps.
But right in the middle of the defensive front, the Utes list two more freshmen as starters. At tackle, local product Lowell Lotulelei (6-1, 310) is listed as the starter, with junior Viliseni Fauonuku (5-11, 285) listed as his backup. At the nose guard position, Filipo Mokofisi (6-3, 275) is the starter, with junior Clint Shepard (6-2, 276) backing him up. Most knew it was a matter of time before the younger Lotulelei muscled his big frame into the starter's role, but Mokofisi was expected to take a year or two to develop. Mokofisi has put on weight faster than expected and definitely been a pleasant surprise to this point in the season.
No changes, really, to one of the most productive parts of the team. Tom Hackett, who is third in the nation in punting average (48.0), is entrenched at punter. Automatic Andy Phillips, fresh off a 3-for-3 field goals game in the Rose Bowl, in which he kicked the game winner from 29 yards and received the game ball from Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham has little to fear (especially after brilliantly executing a solo on-side kick). Kick returner/punt returner Kaelin Clay isn't being pushed by either of the backups (Charles Henderson and Bubba Poole).