Who is the most important player on Utah's roster for the 2015 season? A couple of obvious candidates stand out when reviewing the roster. Hunter Dimick returns at defensive end, where he had 10 sacks last year and disrupted backfields across the Pac-12. Quarterback is often considered the most important position on the field, and the Utes return two seniors in Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson. Even the punter registers on the list. Last year's Ray Guy award winner, Tom Hackett, was just recently listed as Utah's most important player over on ESPN. While all of the aforementioned are critical to the team's success, there is one player that stands out as the most influential to the team's success. That player is senior running back Devontae Booker.
Booker arrived in Utah last summer after taking the long way to play Power 5 football. The running back showed up for fall camp sure of his abilities and promising to be the running back Utah fans had been waiting for. All he did to back it up was rush for 1,512 yards on 292 attempts for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. He rushed for 10 touchdowns and caught 2 more, displaying his receiving abilities in the second half of the season. He averaged 116.3 yards rushing per game after splitting most of the carries through the first three games. If you do not take in to account the three games he did not start, and look at the last ten games where he did start, Booker averaged an incredible 133.3 yards per game, which would have placed him top ten the in the country for yards rushed per game.
His performances during the 2014 season quickly pushed him into the stratosphere of top running backs ever to play for Utah. Booker rushed for over 100 yards in each of Utah's first five conference games last season, tying him for second most consecutive 100-yard rushing games in school history. His total of seven games over the century mark last year tied him for third most in a season at Utah. His 229 yard outburst in Corvallis was also the single best rushing performance in the Pac-12 last season.
The overall style and toughness of Booker's running didn't just fill up stat sheets, but provided the Utah offense with something more important, and identity. The Utah program has thrived when playing tough hard nosed defense combined with a grind-it-out running game. Booker at times last season was the entire offense, willing himself into the end zone, as was evidenced in overtime of the Oregon State game. Booker brought a mentality and toughness to a team that could very well have been lost on offense without him. Booker served as a rudder for the team, and without him the Utes likely don't go bowling last year.
Heading into the 2015 season, Booker looks to remain the centerpiece of the offense. The defense again appears loaded and should be very good, with multiple players who can step up and contribute. Offensively, certain players have shown flashes, but it appears it will again be the Booker show. This season, other team's will be sure to spend more time game planning to face "Book Mode". Booker's abilities will be counted on provide the ground based offense necessary to open things up down field for an unproven group of receivers.
Without Devontae Booker, the offense would be in trouble. Though Joe Williams has looked good since his arrival this summer, there is no question Booker will receive as many carries as he wishes this season. His ability to eat up clock, move the chains, draw attention from the defense and open up the passing game are all reasons to consider Booker for most important player. However his ability to take games over when needed are what push him to the top of the list as the most important player heading into the 2015 season.