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Previewing Utah’s 2022 Schedule With Unrivaled: Arizona

Jun 21, 2022, 10:43 AM | Updated: 10:44 am
TJ Pledger - Utah Utes vs. Arizona Wildcats...
Running back TJ Pledger #5 of the Utah Utes navigates through heavy traffic during the fourth quarter of the NCAAF game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on November 13, 2021 in Tucson, Arizona. The Utes defeated the Wildcats 38-29. (Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY- Summer is here which means it’s a great time to start thinking about the 2022 Utah football schedule. While we are still a few months out from fall camp, it’s never too early to start previewing the Utes’ opponents with the help of Alex Kirry and Scott Mitchell of Unrivaled. Last time we previewed Utah’s eighth game of the year with help from Voice of the Cougs, Matt Chazanow. This week we will move next door to the ninth game on Utah’s schedule against Arizona on November 5th with Arizona Star beat writer, Michael Lev.

A Team On The Rise

The Arizona Wildcats have been one of the doormats of the Pac-12 Conference for several years, but 2021 saw a new pep in their step. First year head coach Jedd Fisch arguably got the most out of his crew in 2021 despite not having as much to work with as some of the their conference mates. While the Wildcats only finished the year 1-11 with their single win coming against Cal, they did give several teams a scare including Utah.

“It was very positive,” Lev said. “There was a lot of energy, there was a lot of enthusiasm even though the bottom line wasn’t good. You don’t want to ever go 1-11 under any circumstances, but they were able to end their losing streak which stretched to a school record 20 games. At least they were able to put that to bed, and cast that aside. While all of that was happening, Jedd and his staff were able to pull in a top 25 recruiting class- something that hasn’t happened here in a very long time. They did very well in the transfer portal in addition to that and the optimism, positivity, and energy have carried over to spring ball.”

What Jedd Fisch Brings

A big part of Arizona’s rapid improvement stems from the attitude and energy of their new head coach. Fisch has brought confidence and swagger to Tucson that recruits and current players alike are wanting in on. However, Lev does think there is a limit to how long that will carry Arizona without improving the win column.

“As far as recruiting goes there are a couple of selling points,” Lev said. “One is playing time. When you are 1-11 a lot of spots are going to be open. We’ve already seen some of the newcomers come in and make an immediate impact. The other idea he’s been able to pitch is, ‘come in and be part of the change.’ ‘Be part of the foundation as we turn this around.’ ‘You’ll have that as part of your legacy for the rest of your days.’ That’s kind of how he was able to do that. I don’t think he can do it again, frankly. I think they need to start winning some games. They need to pull off some upsets because at some point the talk just becomes talk. You need to see some results. I think we need to see that in the 2022 season.”

Jayden de Laura

Probably one of the biggest moves Fisch made in the off-season was signing the services of former Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura. After a tumultuous season on the Palouse that saw Cougar head coach Nick Rolovich fired for not following school Covid-19 protocols, de Laura decided to put his name in the transfer portal for a fresh start. By all accounts from Lev, it sounds like the move was a good one.

“Jayden de Laura has been getting almost all of the first team reps,” Lev said of Arizona’s spring practices. “Read into it what you will, Jedd wasn’t just going to bring in anybody out of the portal at that particular position. His stance all along was if they could legitimately upgrade, they would add somebody. Once Jayden de Laura entered the portal, they felt like that was an upgrade. He started I think 15 games at Washington State. He’s the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. He’s still a little bit raw and learning, but it’s a very different offensive system. He played in a ‘run and shoot’ at Washington State and now he’s in a ‘pro-style’ system where he’s going to be under-center a times. There is a lot more play-action.”

The Utah Road Map

Fisch has been very open and vocal about his desire to get the Wildcats on the Utes’ level. Lev talked about how Fisch has been using his 20-plus years in the NFL to help build a strong culture that fans will be excited about the way Utah’s fans are excited about what Kyle Whittingham does.

“He’s a great admirer of Utah’s program,” Lev said. “He said it last year- that’s the role model for us. He feels like what Utah has going now is where he would like Arizona to be. He remarked when Utah beat Oregon during the regular season with the crowd going nuts and the great atmosphere- that’s what he wants to try and replicate here. He’s got a great example right here in the Pac-12 South of what he’s trying to turn this Arizona team into.”

 

 

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