2010 Record: (10-3, 7-1 in MWC)
Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham (58-20 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Las Vegas Bowl (lost to Boise St 26-3)
9/1: Montana State
9/10: at USC
9/17: at BYU (2010 result: won 17-16)
10/8: Arizona State
10/15: at Pittsburgh (2010 result: lost 27-24 OT)
10/22: at California (2009 result: won 37-27)
10/29: Oregon State
11/5: at Arizona
11/19: at Washington State
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 33.1 ppg (3rd in MWC, 23rd in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 152.92 yds/game (5th in MWC, 62nd in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 236.1 yds/game (2nd in MWC, 47th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 389.0 yds/game (4th in MWC, 52nd in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 20.3 ppg (2nd in MWC, 24th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 111.69 yds/game (2nd in MWC, 11th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 225.2 yds/game (7th in MWC, 73rd in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 336.8 yds/game (3rd in MWC, 27th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: -0.08 per game (4th in MWC, 62nd in Nation)
Penalties: 51.2 yds/game (6th in MWC, 58th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Jordan Wynn, Jr (186 of 299 for 2334 yds, 17 TD, 10 INT)
Rushing: QB Griff Robles, Soph (17 for 124 yds)
Receiving: WR DeVonte Christopher, Jr (39 rec for 660 yds, 6 TD)
Tackles: LB Chaz Walker, Sr (113)
Sacks: 3 tied with 2
Interceptions: LB Brian Blechen, Soph (4)
Athlon Sports: Kraft Fight Hunger (vs Army)
Phil Steele: None
Kyle Whittingham has put together a pretty good resume in the Mountain West. Over the past three seasons he has gone 33-6 overall and 21-3 in conference. Now he's going to get his chance to see if he can put up a similar record in the Pac-12. Despite finishing 10-3 last year Utah felt like it was a bit up and down. After beating Pitt in OT in their first game, Utah reeled off 7 seven straight wins. Great start but only one of those wins came against a team with a winning record at the end of the season so Utah started off 8-0 but with only two quality wins. Then came November and Utah got crushed by TCU 47-7 and then controlled by Notre Dame 28-3. Utah could have folded up after those two loses but went on to beat two respectable teams in San Diego State and BYU to finish 10-2 before losing to Boise State in their bowl game. After all was said and done Utah finished 4-3 in the 7 games that they played against winning competition. That really makes this year interesting for Utah because it will be their maiden voyage into the Pac-12. Utah is no stranger to the conference as they played two Pac-10 games in 2009 when they fell to Oregon by 7 and beat Cal by 10. This years schedule is very interesting. The Utes lucked out by not having to play Oregon or Stanford (who did they pay off for that!) but they do open up their Pac-12 schedule at USC and then stay on the road for a match-up against a tough BYU team that will be looking for revenge for last years games. That being said, Utah only has one team on their schedule that won more than 8 games last year. Can you guess it? Montana State. The schedule sets up favorably for the Utes, will they be able to take advantage? We caught up with Sean from the Utah Utes based blog BlockU to get his take on Utah's first year in the Pac-12.
Has the coaching staff been working on anything different this spring and going into this fall to prepare the team to play in the Pac-12 versus the MWC?
The most important change will be on the offensive end as the Utes have brought in Norm Chow as their new offensive coordinator. Prior to his arrival, the program ran a more spread option offense and he's now implementing a pro-style offense that's more suitable to his style.
This change is important because Utah football has run a variation of the spread option since Urban Meyer's first season here in 2003. It will be an adjustment, but not entirely unexpected, as Jordan Wynn's, Utah's current quarterback, was a pro-style guy in high school and doesn't have the durability, or the mobility, of a typical spread quarterback.
According to Phil Steele, Utah has only five starters returning on defense. Who are some guys that will need to step up this year on the defensive side of the football?
Fortunately, Utah's defense have always been stout under Kyle Whittingham. He was the Utes' defensive coordinator from 1995-2004 and has produced some solid and consistent defenses during his time in Salt Lake City. So even when the team sees high turnover, they almost always bounce back nicely and never have fielded a bad defense since he's been with the program. There is no reason to expect anything different this go around, even if the defense has to replace some key starters.
We're expecting good things from Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez, both senior linebackers. In fact, it's this position that will be the Utes' strength on defense, especially when you include Brian Blechen, who had a fantastic freshman campaign last year.
Ultimately, there is less concern on the defensive end because of Whittingham's past and the fact, even in rebuilding seasons, Utah has restocked rather quickly.
Who are the players on the offensive side of the football that other teams will need to prepare for?
Obviously opposing coaches will have to prepare for Utah's quarterback Jordan Wynn. When he's healthy, I think he has the ability to be one of the better quarterbacks in the country. Wynn started midway through his freshman season and played most of last year before an injury took him out of the Las Vegas Bowl. Hopefully he's 100% for much of 2011 because the offense pretty much rests on his shoulders.
Beyond Wynn, even though the Utes lost their leading receiver, they do bring back some strength there. DeVonte Christopher was pretty durable last year and he should easily transition into the leading receiver for the Utes.
The biggest question mark on offense is at running back, since Utah lost their two leading rushers to graduation. John White and Harvey Langi are the two guys who should get the most reps in fall ball and while they're unknown at this point, both bring with them a lot of hype. White was considered one of the better junior college backs in this year's class and held offers from a few big-named schools. Langi, who will potentially start as a true freshman, was listed as the 17th best running back by Rivals and the 2nd best player out of the state of Utah.
So while experience is an issue here, talent is not and I know Ute fans are anxious and excited to see what the running game can produce - especially with the changes with the offense.
The schedule significantly ramps up this year with Utah's entrance into the Pac-12. There is no more New Mexico, San Jose State, UNLV, Wyoming or Colorado State. Which games do you see as the most pivotal for the Utes this year?
I think the conference opener against SC will set the tone for the season. Utah might not win, but a respectable showing could signal they're not going to be easily dismissed in the conference race. I know my big fear is that the Utes are shamed off the field in their opener and never recover. A scenario like that would be devastating for a program that, over the last ten or so years, has built some solid national cred.
Other than that, the home game against Arizona State might prove to be the most important since the Sun Devils and Utes are expected to challenge for the South division. Roadies against Cal and Arizona won't be easy and you've got to expect, for Utah to have any chance of a division crown, they at least split those two games.
The thing is, there really isn't a gimmie now on the schedule. Every game is important in its own right. Even a trip to Pullman to take on Washington State could prove difficult for the Utes. So, they've got to take every game seriously and hope for no letdown or their season will be quickly lost.
Who do you see becoming Utah's primary in-conference rivals now that they are in the Pac-12?
The obviously choice is Colorado. Utah and Colorado had a rivalry long ago that died out in the 1960s. With the Pac-12 scheduling that game the Friday after Thanksgiving, it's clear the conference is trying to push this rivalry. Since both programs now lack a natural rival in the new conference, it seems appropriate.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
I don't have a gut feeling. This season can turn out really good or really bad. So I'll come down somewhere in the middle. I think the Utes go 8-4 and contend for the Pac-12 South, though come up just short. That, in my view, would be a successful season. Anything less and it's sketchy.
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2011 Team Previews