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Who Replaces the Mayor of Sack Lake City?

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With Nate Orchard gone to the NFL, who will take over as the new Mayor of Sack Lake City?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A season ago the defensive line of Utah made a name for themselves nationally. They were so good that many renamed Utah’s capital city, "Sack Lake City." At the center of it all was Nate Orchard, who led the way for Utah’s dominant defensive line. Orchard is off to display his talents in he NFL this season and takes with him 18.5 sacks and 84 tackles. How do the 2015 Utes replace that production? Who will be the next mayor of Sack Lake City?

It’s not fair to expect a single player to live up to the 18.5 sacks Nate Orchard had last year. That was something special. Some of Utah’s best pass rushers in recent history didn’t even come close to matching that kind of production. Trevor Reilly recorded 9 sacks in 2013, Paul Kruger had 7.5 in 2008 and Joe Kruger had 6 sacks in 2012. In the last ten years, only two players have recorded double digit sacks for the Utes in a season. Those players are Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick, both last season. That being said, Utah has always had a deep and talented defensive line and so far through spring practice, the defensive line shows signs of being dominant once again.

Moving forward, the obvious candidate to take over as "Mayor" of Sack Lake City is Hunter Dimick, who finished fifth in the Pac-12 with 10 sacks last season. At 6-3 266 lbs. Dimick played at the left end position last season and will likely play there once again this season. Dimick is a high motor, high energy player who is aggressive and has the physical tools to stop the run as well as rush the passer. Along with his ten sacks from last year, Dimick also had 52 tackles, 14.5 for a loss.

Last season with Orchard posing such a threat to opposing offenses, Dimick largely flew under the radar. That should change this year. All indications are Dimick will be relied on to bring even more pressure than he did last year and will be counted on to step up as a leader for the defensive line. With Orchard gone, it will be interesting to see if Dimick can build on his production, as he will likely see more double teams and become more of a focal point for opposing offenses to stop.

Currently, behind Dimck at the strong side end position is Kylie Fitts. You may remember Fitts as a four star recruit the Utes were hoping to land as part of the 2013 recruiting class. He ended up signing with UCLA before transferring and sitting out last season with the Utes. At 6-4 275 lbs. Fitts is a physical specimen at the defensive end position.

Coming out of high school, Fitts was the No. 12 ranked defensive end in the country and No. 1 defensive end, according to scout.com. ESPN had him ranked as the No. 8 recruit out of the state of California. He was named all-league three years in a row in high school, totaling 90 tackles and 10 sacks in his junior year, and 31 tackles and 4 sacks in only six games his senior year. Fitts has not played much since his high school days, recording only one tackle during his freshman season as a backup with the Bruins. The talent is there, however for Fitts to emerge as a major player on the defensive line.

On the right side of the line, Jason Fanaika and Pita Taumoepenu are battling it out for the opportunity to replace Orchard as the starter. Both have serious potential to replace Orchard as Utah’s sack leader. Pita Taumoepenu is brimming with potential. The junior is the fastest member of the defensive line with a 4.6 40 yard dash. Taumoepenu is long and fast, and extremely athletic, an ideal edge rusher. Even if he does not win the starting job, you will likely see him on the field on passing downs to bring the heat this season.

Fanaika is extremely versatile at 6-3 270lbs. He naturally fits in at defensive end, but played much of last season at linebacker due to depth issues and performed well. Fanaika is also versatile enough to slide into the interior and play some defensive tackle. Ultimately, this versatility might be what wins Fanaika the starting spot at right end. He is stout against the run, can provide a pass rush to compliment Dimick on the other end, and is able to drop back into pass coverage, which could come in handy when trying to disguise linebacker blitzes. Fanaika could be in for a big 2015 season after recording 55 tackles and 5 sacks last season.

The defensive tackle rotation will include Lowell Lotuleilei, Filipo Mokofisi and Viliseni Fauonuku this season and will cause teams headaches. Lotulelei proved in his freshman year to be a disruptive force, who often required double teaming. Mokofisi has had experience at the defensive end position and has transitioned to the tackle position to become a force on the inside. Fauonuku is a senior leader who can eat up space in the middle. While none of the tackles are likely to earn the sack totals of the defensive ends, the double teams they will demand and overall disruption they cause will play an important role in helping out whoever emerges as the new "Mayor".