Phil Steele’s Thoughts On Utah, Conference Realignment
SALT LAKE CITY- College football is just around the corner which means it’s time to talk to the experts about their prognostications for the season. There is no analyst better than Phil Steele, who took time out of his day to talk to Unrivaled about Utah, and how they fit into the latest round of conference realignment.
Phil Steele On Utah
The Utes have been getting a lot of preseason hype and Steele feels it is warranted. In fact, he thinks the Pac-12 could very well have a playoff contender in 2022 and that Utah fits the bill.
“I really do think the Pac-12 has a shot at making the Playoff this year,” Steele said. “To me the main hope would be Utah. I’ve got Utah ranked as one of the top teams in the country at the end of the season. Talking to coach Whittingham every year, you know he’s going to have a strong offensive line and defensive line. I feel they have that this season. I rate Utah number six on the offensive line and number 17 on the defensive line.”
Steele is also high on Utah’s linebacker room despite losing both Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell to the NFL Draft. According to Steele, the Utes did a good job of addressing that hole for the 2022 season. He also feels the secondary will be a strength on the defense, despite the late injuries last season.
“Despite losing just an amazing talent in Devin Lloyd- the linebacker, they bring in Florida’s number one tackler, Mohamoud Diabate in there at the linebacker position,” Steele said. “I still rate their linebackers number 11 and their DBs number 12. Keep in mind in that Rose Bowl game they were playing a running back and a walk-on in the secondary due to some depletions. I think they are much better in the secondary than they showed in that game.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Steele doesn’t see much he doesn’t like when it comes to the Utes. The quarterback, line, tight ends and running backs all appear to be strengths that should continue to improve in 2022.
“Offensively, I thought they were much better when Cam Rising took over as the starting QB,” Steel said. “He led them right down the stretch, they have a very deep backfield, dangerous tight ends and as I mentioned they are strong at the line of scrimmage.
Finally, Utah’s schedule appears to be a strength as well according to Steele. Lots of games that will build respect, but shouldn’t be a detriment to what Steele believes could potentially end up being an undefeated season.
“When I look at the schedule this year for Utah, I actually have them favored in every game except Oregon which I have rated as a toss-up,” Steele said. “If they can go in and beat Oregon which they did put up points last year and Oregon has a new head coach this year then I think Utah has an excellent shot at running the table and perhaps making the Playoff.”
One of the biggest factors heading into the 2022 football season for the Utes is Cam Rising. According to Steele, he is one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and has the potential to be an NFL guy.
“I’ve got him number two in the Pac-12,” Steele said. “Just behind Caleb Williams who I went with because Lincoln Riley always produces a Heisman Trophy winner. He’s got a QB from Oklahoma and he’s a pretty electric athlete as well. I’ve got Cam Rising right behind him. I think he’s an NFL type of quarterback. He ignited the offense once he took over. He is the leader of the leaders. He’s got that alpha dog- that ‘it’ factor and that’s what you want out of your leader on offense. Cam Rising when you look at him can do it all. He can hurt you both running and throwing and I think he is one of the top quarterbacks in the country.
As far as conference realignment goes, Steele thinks there isn’t anyway to truly predict the future. These days it feels like we are heading toward two, maybe three super conferences, but back in the day Steele says he was confident it was going to be five super conferences.
“The thing is I don’t think anyone in the country really knows where we are going, but I will say this,” Steele said. “Two years ago if you asked me that question, I was pretty firm on it. I said there would be five 16-team super conferences, but now it appears we are heading for two or three super conferences.”
As far as how this all plays out for Utah, Steele doesn’t see how the Utes can be left out of a super conference at this point. In Steele’s eyes Utah has done more than enough to prove they are worthy and a good addition.
“I don’t see how they don’t at this point,” Steele said. “If you’ve watched and gone through the rosters of Utah through out the years like I have, you can see it with the way this team is built. This team is not a two-year wonder or a three-year wonder. They are built for the long haul. They are built to be a title contender every year and if you know football and are the head of a conference and you are looking for one, I think Utah is a no-brainer to bring in.”
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