The 2014 season proved to be another successful campaign for Utah's front four. Some of the league's greatest players have come from this unit throughout the years, and 2015 should be no exception. However, the Utes will be under new direction with the hiring of John Pease, and although he is a "new hire," Pease is through and through a Utah Man.
John Pease - Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line
John Pease has forgotten more about football than most people will ever know, and the results speak for themselves. Pease has coached some the greatest players to come through the University of Utah. Judging by the way he has turned lower rated players, such as Koa Misi (Miami Dolphins) and Sealver Siliga (New England Patriots), into finding huge success at the professional level, it will be very exciting to see what he can get out of the deep talent pool that Kyle Whittingham has amassed. Pease spent 11 years in the NFL, and upon retiring, he led all active coaches in sack production. However, his biggest attribute is that players absolutely love to play for him. His ability to relate and get the most out of his players is what makes him some such a valuable asset.
I believe the following players are a lock for the 2015 season and will make-up the main rotation of this years front four:
Hunter Dimick - junior DE
Had it not been for the Mayor of "Sack Lake City," Nate Orchard, Dimick would have dominated the headlines and garnered the attention he most certainly deserves. He is big, physical, and technically sound, while being
Lowell Lotulelei - sophomore DT
While his numbers weren't mind blowing, his play on the field told a completely different story. Not unlike his brother, he is big, athletic, and disruptive. Teams that took a chance and tried to play him one-on-one last year found out very quickly that without a double team, he was going to cause problems all game long. During the Oregon game last year, Lotulelei cause All-American center Hronis Grasu to call for help on nearly every play. Until Oregon's O-Line adjusted, Marcus Mariota was in trouble. As a true freshman, Lowell looks to be on the road to being a dominating player in the Pac-12, and maybe leaving early for the NFL.
As one of the only seniors returning to the 2015 defensive line,
The last defensive end spot is completely up for grabs at this point, and spring football should give Coach Pease a good idea of who will fill that void moving forward. I personally believe Jason Faniaka will ultimately move to DE, vacating a LB spot from last year.
Do not sleep on newcomers Kylie Fitts and Wallace Gonzalez though. Fitts was a highly coveted recruit when he signed with UCLA, and while Gonzalez is still learning the ins and outs of D-I football, he has all the measurable to become very successful.
Although, he is currently listed as a LB, Pita Taumoepenu could make a push for DE. He saw a lot of success last season in rushing situations and I imagine that Coach Whittingham will want to continue to use him in that capacity. Pita is long, athletic and a natural rusher. Even if he does not lock in a spot at DE full-time, he will still be used in certain situations.