The State Of Utah Utes Athletics

Mar 1, 2022, 3:05 PM
Kyle Whittingham - Utah Utes - Rose Bowl...
Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes looks on during the fourth quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2022 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah Utes has strong programs in their athletics department that continue to improve each season and make the state proud.

The benefits of being in the Pac-12 for over a decade is starting to see how high Utah Utes athletics can go in competition.

In honor of the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, here is the state of Utah Athletics.

Utah Football

1. Depth

For the most part recently, Utah football’s depth has been strong. With the “next man up” mentality being a strong part of the success, that wasn’t the case in the Rose Bowl when they had to use a running back at cornerback. The Utes have deep position groups, including linebacker, offensive line, defensive line, quarterback, running back, tight end and much more, the defensive secondary could use more depth.

Utah signed a couple of defensive backs in the 2022 class but to learn the system will take some time, along with catching up with the speed of the game.

2. Recruiting

It’s been a great stretch run for Utah football on the recruiting trail. It really ramped up in the 2020 class with signees including Clark Phillips, Van Fillinger, Nate Ritchie, Ty Jordan, Sione Fotu. That was Utah’s highest rated recruiting class at the time with an average rating of 0.8652, which was good for 30th in the nation and fifth in the Pac-12.

That average increased to 0.8727 with the 2021 class with players like Ethan Calvert, Mason Tufaga, Ricky Parks, Isaac Vaha, Trey Reynolds, Cole Bishop and Jonah Elliss. Utah was ranked No. 34 in the country and sixth in the conference.

The 2022 class was even better with an average of 0.8744, good for 38th in the country and fourth in the Pac-12. They picked up talented players, including Jaylon Glover, Lander Barton, Justin Medlock, Carson Tabaracci, Nate Johnson, Kaeo Akana and Tao Johnson.

The transfer portal has been good to Utah as well with additions of Tavion Thomas, T.J. Pledger, Chris Curry, Mohamoud Diabate, among others.

If the Utes continue to win at a high level on the gridiron, the recruiting rankings will keep increasing.

3. Championship Culture

Under Kyle Whittingham, Utah football has always been a culture of hard work, physicality and grit. The wins would come with that culture but it never brought a championship to the program at the power-five level until 2021 when you add elite leadership and belief in each other. That is what separated the great Utah football teams from the elite.

With most of their key contributors from last season returning in 2022, Utah is set up for another magical season. Although, Devin Lloyd is departing, the Utes are setup with talented transfers and recruits to take the program to the next level.

Utah Football is in best position that they have ever been in.

Utah Basketball

1. Bumps In The Road

With a win over Colorado in their regular season finale on Saturday, Utah men’s basketball is one win away from tying the 2020-21 win total in a COVID-shortened season. To say it’s been a tough season for the Runnin’ Utes would be fair. But did anyone expect Craig Smith to come in and take the Utes to the NCAA Tournament in his first season on the job at a power-five level? If so, that’s unfair expectations, especially given what Smith had returning from last year’s team.

Branden Carlson, Riley Battin and Lahat Thioune were the notable returners from last season. That left most of the production in the transfer portal. It’s hard to root for a team that went on a 10-game losing streak and has won just four conference games to this point, but the reason Smith is the head coach instead of Larry Krystkowiak is because the program needed a change due to the trajectory.

Bumps in the road was expected in Smith’s first season at the helm.

2. Patience Is Key

For the longest time, the University of Utah was always a basketball school. The Huntsman Center was packed and loud, creating one of the toughest environments in college basketball. There was a glimpse of that returning during a three-year stretch under Larry Krystkowiak but for the most part, that hasn’t been the case since Andrew Bogut was here.

Craig Smith was the head coach at Utah State when The Spectrum was not full and loud. In less than one season, he brought The Spectrum magic back. It’s tough to take over a program at the power-five level and having to go get most of your players from the transfer portal. It’s going to take time. Patience with the Utah basketball program will be key.

3. Give The Coaching Staff A Chance

Social media can be toxic but it can also be informative. It’s what media members use to do their jobs at a high level. It’s also where toxic messages get posted when fans are unhappy with their teams. There was fans that didn’t think that Craig Smith was right for the Utah job. I would strongly disagree with that. Smith has a great coaching staff alongside him and are working to get talented players into the program, while also developing the guys that are with the team already. Give Smith a couple of seasons to work his magic.

Utah basketball presents hope for bright future in new era

Meanwhile, Utah women’s basketball is on the brink of making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2010-11 season. It’s been a long time coming but Lynne Roberts has done a tremendous job with the rebuild. The crazy thing is that they will likely making the Big Dance with freshmen leading the program, including Gianna Kneepkens and Jenna Johnson.

It’s a young roster that can be scary in the Pac-12 in the next two to three seasons.

Red Rocks And Olympic Sports

For as long as I have covered Utah Athletics, the Red Rocks have always been a consistent contender and the 2022 season is no different. After finishing third in the country last season, the Red Rocks are looking to get back the NCAA Championship once again. Despite some little hiccups in the road this season, Utah has a strong team that is certainly capable to make a run.

While gymnastics is in elite status, Utah has other Olympic sports that are on the rise. In the first season under Gary Henderson, Utah baseball is 4-1-1 to start the campaign. Softball is playing with some the best in the nation and is giving everything they have. They lost to No. 5 Oklahoma on a walk-off, while taking a 2-1 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma last week. Utah softball is currently 11-5 and will look to take the Pac-12 by storm.

Lacrosse is 2-1 after winning their last two games, including a win over a top 25 opponent. The Utah ski team is always a national title contender and have the same expectations this season with multiple athletes on their roster competing in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com, Co-Host of Faith, Family and Football podcast with Clark Phillips III and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASports.

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