While this offseason was relatively quiet for the Utah football team, they have lost several key players. Senior offensive lineman Hiva Lutui and junior tight end Siale Fakailoatonga (ACL injury) were both lost to injury. Senior defensive lineman Stevie Tu'ikolovatu and junior quarterback Brandon Cox both opted to transfer in an attempt to get more playing time. One other player who will miss some of not all of the 2016 season is Cory Butler-Byrd, who was indefinitely suspended after vandalizing a police station and car. Butler-Byrd, Fakailoatonga, and Lutui were all projected to start in 2016 while Cox and Tu'ikolovatu were going to be backups.
The losses of both Fakailoatonga and Lutui hurt, but tight end and offensive line have the talent and depth to absorb the losses. Stevie T despite being a backup would have earned playing time in Utah's defensive line rotation. The worst part about losing him is where he is going, to Pac-12 South rival USC. Cox decided to transfer less than two weeks before the season after JUCO transfer Troy Williams and true freshman Tyler Huntley both passed him on the depth chart. His absence leaves the Utes with only two scholarship quarterbacks for 2016. Butler-Byrd is the only one of the five players lost this offseason who could return and play for the Utes in 2016 if he gets reinstated by head coach Kyle Whittingham after being charged with a misdemeanor.
None of these losses individually is devastating. However, the losses collectively hurt Utah's depth and may require the Utes to play more true freshmen than they had originally planned. If Butler-Byrd was definitively lost for the season, I would say he is the biggest loss since wide receiver is by far the weakest position that lost a player, and he was a projected starter. He, unlike the other four, could come back and play for Utah in the 2016. Because of this, I think the biggest loss is Fakailoatonga. He missed the last half of the 2015 season after suffering an ACL injury in his other knee. Joseph Silverzweig and I both feel his loss last season had much more of an impact than people thought. I have been told by coaches that Fakailoatonga's blocking is akin to having an extra offensive lineman on the field, which is huge for a run-first team like Utah. Joseph also did an excellent article about the biggest loss last season, which was Fakailoatonga.
Here at Block U we wish the injured Utes a speedy recovery and the former Utes well at their new schools (except when they play Utah). Who do you think is the biggest loss this offseason for the Utes?