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Utah Football Is Well Equipped To Be Pac-12 Contenders For Many Years To Come

Head coach Kyle Whittingham looks on during the first quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Projecting the future of Utah football should give fans a lot of excitement as this program is equipped to be contenders for years to come.

After reaching the Pac-12 Championship game in both 2018 and 2019, Utah football is still searching for their first conference crown but should be contenders for years to come. If the development continues to grow like it has under head coach Kyle Whittingham and the recruiting classes continue to be top notch, the Utes should be able to finally win a conference championship.

Just looking at the personnel that is currently signed or enrolled at Utah should get the fans pumped for the future. Teams around the Pac-12 continue to bring in talent and Utah is right there with them.

Here is a look at what makes Utah in line to win a Pac-12 championship (or multiple titles) over the next three years.

Defense Keeps Reloading Not Rebuilding

During the COVID-19 pandemic 2020 season, Utah was one of the very few programs in the country that actually benefitted from that year. With nine new starters coming in on defense, they were able to get free experience as they didn’t burn a year of eligibility. Which means that all of the freshmen or new starters that played last season, will be back in their same year but with meaningful reps under their belt.

You know you have something special when players that could make the jump to the NFL decide to put that on hold for one year in order to win a ring. That’s what star linebacker Devin Lloyd did. Also, Nick Ford and Brant Kuithe on offense decided to come back for another season.

The defensive line will always be stacked with talent. That’s the tradition of Utah football. With Mika Tafua and Maxs Tupai starting on the edges with talented freshmen Xavier Carlton and Van Fillinger waiting in the wings, along with Blake Kuithe in that room, the defensive end position is in a great place for the next five years.

Defensive tackles are in a similar situation. Viane Moala is considered one of the best defensive tackles in the Pac-12. He is with a group that will be chomping at the bit for game reps. Hauati Pututau, Tennessee Pututau, Aliki Vimahi, Tanoa Togiai, Simote Pepa and Devin Kaufusi provide massive depth at the position.

The linebacker position is in a great spot as well with Devin Lloyd around to take the young guys under his wing and show them the ropes and the standard of Utah football linebackers. Nephi Sewell is a versatile weapon that will be used all over the field. Recruiting the position has been kind to the program with the additions of Ethan Calvert and Mason Tufaga. There is also buzz surrounding Trey Reynolds.

The secondary is stacked with talent once again. JaTravis Broughton made massive strides in his first season as the No. 1 cornerback. Clark Phillips III lived up to expectations as the highest rated recruit to join the program. He put a stamp on his (first) freshman year with a pick-six in the regular season finale against Washington State. Faybian Marks made some big plays in his first season as a Ute. Drew Rawls, Aaron Lowe and Kenzel Lawler should be players to watch for as well as they build depth at the cornerback spots. Malone Mataele showed glimpses of brilliance at nickel, which is a very difficult position to play in Kyle Whittingham’s system.

Vonte Davis has one more season remaining with the program after a breakout season in 2020. Kamo’i Latu, R.J. Hubert and Cole Bishop will be guys to watch for as will Zemaiah Vaugh. When Nate Ritchie returns from his two-year mission sometime in 2023, he will be a force for the safety position.

Offense Needs Small Tweaks But In Great Shape

Running backs have been a major part of Utah’s success on offense. Also, the 2019 season by Tyler Huntley showed what the quarterbacks that go to Utah are capable of doing. Depth is hard to come by especially at quarterback and especially in this day and age of college football with the transfer portal. If you thought Utah was deep at quarterback last year, wait until you check out the signal callers this year.

Cam Rising is the favorite to start the 2021 season if he is fully healthy. But having Charlie Brewer in the room provides some extra competition for Rising and the other players gunning for the starting job. When Rising and Brewer are done with their college careers, the “next man up” will be either Peter Costelli and Ja’Quinden Jackson. Utah needs to take that next step at the quarterback position and they are equipped to do so with this group.

It will be difficult to watch the running backs this season after the tragic death of freshman phenom Ty Jordan. The Utes were able to get some quality talent in the transfer portal with Oklahoma RB T.J. Pledger and Chris Curry from LSU. Ricky Parks is a 2021 signee from Florida that will have his eyes set on trying to be the next great Florida running back to join Utah. No one should forget that Micah Bernard has made massive progress in his game and will be a factor for the Utes in the running game this season.

Britain Covey is at the forefront of the talent at wide receiver but Solomon Enis is expected to be that No. 1 WR that the program needs after Bryan Thompson and Samson Nacua left the team. Devaughn Vele has a bright future as does Money Parks. It will be interesting to see what Caine Savage and Ben Renfro can do for the position group. Also, Jaylen Dixon will be a threat in the passing game and will be a leader for this young group. The only signee at the position was Makai Cope, who has a bright future in the program.

Utah has the best tight end room in the conference and it really isn’t that close with Brant Kuithe, Cole Fotheringham and Dalton Kincaid. The offensive line is in a great spot as well with a lot of young and talented players. Nick Ford will be running things at center, along with Jaren Kump and Simi Moala with Bamidele Olaseni providing depth on the outside. Braeden Daniels, Sataoa Laumea, Keaton Bills, Luke Felix, Fualalo, Alex Harrison and Johnny Maea will be in the mix as well.

If you look at the broad picture of Utah football, there should be a Pac-12 Championship (or two) coming to Salt Lake City very soon. As soon as 2021.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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