The 2016 football season is in the books for the Utah Utes football team. While the Utes failed to capture that elusive Pac-12 South Championship, they did win nine or more games and a bowl for the third straight season. We will hand out offensive MVP, defensive MVP, special teams MVP, best newcomer, best freshman, and best unsung. Utah had a 1,000 yard rusher for the third year in a row. They had a player record double-digit sacks. They also had the Ray Guy Award winner for a record third year in a row.
Offensive MVP: RB Joe Williams
The season did not get off to a great start for Williams. After two disappointing performances where he fumbled multiple times and managed only 75 total rushing yards, he chose to retire from football. After a rash of injuries to Utah's other running backs, Williams was coaxed out of retirement after four weeks, and he came alive. He showcased the speed, power, and vision that he displayed at times last season. He rushed for 149 yards or more in six out of Utah's final seven games. He gashed UCLA for a school-record 332 rushing yards. He also set a Foster Farms Bowl record with 222 rushing yards. The fumble problem that plagued Williams before his retirement was mostly gone. Williams finished the season with 1,407 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. After coming out of retirement, he averaged over 190 rushing yards per game. Williams will be remembered by Utah fans for his triumphant return from retirement, shattering multiple records in the process.
Defensive MVP: DE Hunter Dimick
For the second time in his career at Utah, Dimick recorded double-digit sacks. Dimick helped Utah bring back the "Sack Lake City" moniker, and he became the newest mayor. Utah led the Pac-12 in sacks with 43. Dimick's 14.5 sacks was tied for third in the nation and the most of any Pac-12 player. Snacks was a terror off the edge for opposing offenses, especially Arizona State, a team he tied a Pac-12 record against with five sacks in the game. He also led the Pac-12 with 21 tackles for loss. It was a great season for Dimick to cap an excellent career at Utah.
Special Teams MVP: P Mitch Wishnowsky
Wishnowsky had huge shoes to fill after two-time Ray Guy Award winning punter Tom Hackett graduated. Wishnowsky didn't just maintain Utah's excellent punting tradition, he excelled in his first season. Wishnowsky only had two touch backs on the season, and both were in week one. He won the Ray Guy Award, Utah's third in a row. No other school has won the Ray Guy Award more than twice.
Best Newcomer: OT Garett Bolles
Bolles was one of the highest rated recruits coming out of Snow College. In his first season at Utah, he started at left tackle and earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors. Bolles physically dominated his competition and only got better as the season wore on. His devastating block on USC linebacker Cam Smith was one of the best moments from Utah's signature win in 2016. The only knock on Bolles was a few too many penalties, especially earlier in the season.
Best Freshman: RB Zack Moss
Injuries slowed Moss a bit in his freshman season. When he was healthy though, he showed he has a lot of talent. He is a big, physical back. His best game came against SAN Jose State. Moss carried the ball 12 times for 95 yards and one touchdown. He also had 90 yards on 23 carries against USC. Injuries and the return of Joe Williams limited Moss's carries down the stretch. He finished his freshman season with 382 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He has a bright future in the Utah backfield.
Unsung Player: LS Chase Dominguez
In his four years as a long snapper for Utah, fans did not hear his named called, which means Chase Dominguez did his job. He did his job, consistently delivering on-target long snaps. The four-year starter deserves a shout out for a great career at Utah.