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Utah football fall camp kicks off Wednesday

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NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Football season is here! Camp Kyle starts on Wednesday, in what fans, coaches and players hope will be a championship season. The Utes were picked at the top of the Pac-12 South and to win the Pac-12 Championship, and is a dark horse pick for some for the College Football Playoff, and it all starts now. Utah kicks off the season in 4 weeks against BYU in Provo.

There was a bit of news circulating around the Twitter-sphere on Tuesday night that transfer linebacker Manny Bowen is no longer with the team. UteZone.com reported that he is stepping away from football, Hans Olsen of 1280 The Zone said he is unlikely to return, and hopefully we’ll get more definitive news on that tomorrow from Coach Whitt.

Losing Bowen would be a hit to the depth of the linebacker corps, no doubt, especially since he was a presumed starter. I think Utah has the depth that can absorb the loss, but it’s a loss you hate to see before camp starts. Now we should expect to see Devin Lloyd step into his place, and that is a youngster with a ton of potential, and now has the opportunity to shine.

As always with camp, it’s all about staying as healthy as you can. It will also be crucial for the offense to get into a groove with Andy Ludwig’s system before the season, and with a veteran group, I don’t see that being a problem.

All practices are close to the public and the media, but here is the schedule for fall camp, as well as a bunch of other goodies that the Utah SID team shared today that you can digitally thumb through.

Week 1:

Wednesday, July 31 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Thursday, Aug. 1 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Friday, Aug. 2 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Saturday, Aug. 3 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Week 2:

Monday, Aug. 5 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Wednesday, Aug. 7 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Friday, Aug. 9 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Saturday, Aug. 10 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Week 3:

Monday, Aug. 12 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Wednesday, Aug. 14 (Eccles Football Center Fields)

Friday, Aug. 16 (Rice-Eccles Stadium)

Saturday, Aug. 17 (Rice-Eccles Stadium)

The annual Utah Red Zone Fan Fest, featuring representation from every Utah Athletics program, will take place Saturday, Aug. 17, from 6-8 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Kyle’s Corner

Kyle Whittingham, the longest-tenured head coach in the Pac-12 Conference and the third-longest tenured coach at the same school in the NCAA FBS, begins for his 15th season at the helm at Utah, where he boasts a 120-61 record. Legendary for his postseason success, Whittingham boasts the second-best bowl win percentage in NCAA history (84%). His 11 bowl wins (11-2) ties him for second among active coaches and ranks in the top-10 all-time (including ties). Whittingham is in his 26th season on the Utah coaching staff, beginning in 1994 as the defensive line coach.

This and That

The clear bag policy will continue to be enforced at Utah athletic events held at Rice-Eccles Stadium and the Huntsman Center this season ... the Utes have played before 57 straight sellout crowds in Rice-Eccles Stadium, dating back to the 2010 season opener ... the first weekly press conference of the year will be on Monday, Aug. 26 at noon in the Eccles Football Center media room.

In the Huddle

Despite what will be an overhaul of new faces on the offensive line, the Utah offensive returns eight of its 11 starters, including all-Pac-12 candidates Tyler Huntley, Zack Moss, Jaylen Dixon and Britain Covey. Darrin Paulo will move to left tackle after 26 career starts on the right side with Orlando Umana also returning to the line after starting in 13 games last season (4 left guard, 9 at center). The Ute defensive line is shaping up to be one of the best in the country, returning All-America candidatesBradlee Anae and Leki Fotu, and All-Pac-12 second-team selection John Penisini, and adding depth with part-time starters from a year ago in Maxs Tupai, Mika Tafua and Pita Tonga. The area hardest hit on defense was at linebacker, losing All-American Chase Hansen and all-Pac-12 selection Cody Barton. Francis Bernard will look to step into a starting role after returning from injury with newcomer and Penn State graduate transfer Manny Bowen also anticipating a starting role. In the secondary, the Utes return Julian Blackmon, Jaylon Johnson and Javelin Guidry. Blackmon is making the switch to safety this season after earning back-to-back all-Pac-12 honors at corner while Johnson will stay at corner where he was a first-team all-conference selection a year ago. Guidry returns as Utah’s starting nickleback after showing off his blazing speed this offseason, tying for the fastest 60-meter dash time by a collegiate football player in 2019 with a 6.59.

Watch Out

Several Utes have been named to the preseason watch lists released to date.

· Dodd Trophy (Coach of the Year) – Kyle Whittingham

· Maxwell Award (America’s College Player of the Year) —Zack Moss

· Walter Camp Player of the Year – Zack Moss

· Bednarik Award (College Defensive Player of the Year) —Bradlee Anae, Jaylon Johnson

· Lott IMPACT Trophy—Jaylon Johnson

· Doak Walker Award—Zack Moss

· Outland Trophy – Leki Fotu, John Penisini

· Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Most Outstanding College Defensive Player) – Bradlee Anae, Jaylon Johnson

· Paul Hornung Award (Most Versatile Player) – Britain Covey

· AFCA Good Works Team—Terrell Burgess

· Wuerffel Trophy – Britain Covey

· John Mackey Award (Tight End) —Cole Fotheringham

· Jim Thorpe Award—Julian Blackmon, Jaylon Johnson

New Faces on Staff

The Utah football staff added three new staff members to its squad this offseason, including two who are already familiar faces.Andy Ludwig, who helped lead Utah to a 13-0 record in 2008 and a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, returns as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after spending the past three seasons at Vanderbilt in the same position. Former Ute and NFL defensive tackle Sione Po’uha returns to his alma mater as the defensive tackles coach after holding the same position at Navy in 2018. Rounding out Utah’s staff additions is linebackers coach Colton Swan, who was the longest-tenured coach on the Weber State football staff before joining the Utes in January.

Fun Facts

Utah leads the Pac-12 and is sixth nationally in weeks ranked in the College Football Playoff Poll, coming in with 24, only trailing Alabama (31), Clemson (31), Ohio State (31), Oklahoma (29) and LSU (27) ... the Utes rank first in the Pac-12 in turnovers forced (133) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (12) in the last five years ... Utah ranks second among Pac-12 teams in opponent touchdowns allowed in the last 10 years (356), sitting behind Stanford (336).

2018 in Review

In what turned into a historic season, Utah wrapped up 2018 with a 9-5 overall record, including going 6-3 in Pac-12 play to clinch its first outright Pac-12 Conference South Division title. The Utes went on to play in their first Pac-12 Championship game and qualify for their 22nd bowl appearance in program history. Chase Hansen (FWAA 2nd team; Sporting News 2nd team; The Athletic 2nd team; Phil Steele 2nd team), Mitch Wishnowsky (Walter Camp 2nd team; AP 2nd team; AFCA 2nd team; Phil Steele 3rd team) and Matt Gay (FWAA 2nd team; Pro Football Focus 2nd team; AP 3rd team; Phil Steele 2nd team) all earned All-America honors with Wishnowsky becoming the first three-time finalist for the Ray Guy Award in NCAA history. The Utes also set a school record by landing nine student-athletes on the All-Pac-12 first-team. Including first team, second team and honorable mention, 10 of Utah’s 11 defensive starters earned all-conference in 2018.

Ute Scouting Report (per UtahUtes.com)

Quarterback

Tyler Huntley (Sr., 6-1, 205), the primary starter for the past two seasons, has started 19 career games and thrown for 4,259 yards with 27 touchdowns. One of the top returning QBs in the Pac-12, he is backed up by Jason Shelley (So., 5-11, 200) who started the final five games last year after Huntley broke his collarbone. Shelley passed for five touchdowns and ran for three more in guiding the Utes through the Pac-12 Championship Game and the Holiday Bowl.

Offensive Line

Senior all-conference candidate Darrin Paulo (6-5, 315) has started 26 of the past 27 games at right tackle, and is joined by junior center Orlando Umana (6-4, 315) as the two returning starters in 2019. Sophomore Nick Ford (6-5, 315) started seven games at two positions in 2018 and brings additional experience to a group that must solidify its best five in fall camp.

Wide Receiver

Junior Britain Covey (5-8, 170) caught a team-high 60 passes for 637 yards and a touchdown last season in a successful return after a two-year church mission. The two-time All-Pac-12 return man leads a strong and talented group into 2019 along with second-leading receiver Jaylen Dixon (So., 5-9, 170) who averaged a team-high 18.4 yards-per-catch on his 32 receptions in a breakout freshman season.

Running Back

All-America candidate senior Zack Moss (5-10, 222) saw his junior season cut short because of injury but still recorded his second consecutive 1,000-yard campaign, amassing 1,096 yards and 11 TDs in just nine starts. With 2,651 career rushing yards, Moss enters his final season ranked fourth in school history.

Tight End

A pair of true freshmen turned out to be the Utes’ most productive tight ends in 2018, with Brant Kuithe (6-2, 235) and Cole Fotheringham (6-4, 252) combining to catch 37 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensive Line

Three senior All-Pac-12 honorees return, led by All-America candidates Bradlee Anae (DE, 6-3, 265) and Leki Fotu (DT, 6-5, 330) who rank among the best players in the country at their positions. John Penisini (DT, 6-2, 320) earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in a breakout 2018 season.

Linebacker

Senior Francis Bernard (6-0, 240) is one of the team’s leading returning tacklers (38 stops, 5.0 TFL, 1 INT) after playing in 12 games a year ago and making two starts. He missed spring ball because of injury but is the most experienced returnee at the linebacker position, and he became more productive as the season progressed.

Cornerback

Jaylon Johnson (Jr., 6-0, 190) is regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in the nation and a legitimate All-America candidate after earning first-team All-Pac-12 in 2018. He had a stellar season with four interceptions and ranked eighth in the nation with 126 interception return yards.

Safety

Converted cornerback Julian Blackmon (Sr., 6-1, 195) gives the safety group a two-time All-Pac-12 performer to be its leader after Marquise Blair was drafted in the second round and Corrion Ballard signed a free agent contract. Blackmon adjusted to his new position in spring ball after starting all 27 games at cornerback for the Utes in 2017 and ’18.

Specialists

Wide receiver/returner Britain Covey (5-8, 170) is arguably the top return man in the Pac-12. Voted first-team All-Pac-12 in 2018 after returning from a two-year church mission, Covey picked up where he left off after earning Freshman All-America honors in 2015, and averaged 8.8 yards on 25 punt returns. Punter Ben Lennon (6-2, 199) played four years of Australian rules football in the Australian Football League (2014-17) before enrolling at Utah as part of the