Is Utah's Offense Ready To Thrive And Carry The Utes This Season?
Year in and year out, college football teams around the country know exactly what they're going to get when they face Utah; an offense that does enough to win and a defense that's fast, physical, intelligent and one of the nation's best.
But with all of the changes and the craziness that has happened in 2020, it seems fitting that this could be the season Utah does a complete turnaround and the offense takes center stage.
“The offense is further ahead than the defense," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said on Friday. "It was apparent in the scrimmage last week. It was very apparent in practice yesterday. We had two live sessions about 20 snaps each so about 40 snaps total of live work yesterday was the offense definitely got the best of things. ... I would say that’s to be expected we got a lot of returning starters on offense."
Utah must replace nine starters from last year's starters defense, which was ranked No. 2 overall in total defense and No. 6 in scoring. Among those needing to be replaced are the entire secondary, the program's career sack leader and the heart-and-soul of the unit.
That's why when the Utes released its depth chart on the first day of fall camp, it wasn't completely shocking to see that there were 10 TRUE freshman listed among the initial two-deep. Now after two weeks of camp, it appears that number is going down, but there are still a number of them in the running for starting spots.
With the defense going through a "replenish" — Utah doesn't like the word "rebuild" — it will be up to the offense to win games this season.
If you're Whittingham and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, that could be a little nerve-wracking. But when you look at the talent on the offensive side of the ball, that should bring a lot of comfort.
"We're committed to doing whatever it takes to win," Ludwig said. "So if the strength of the offense is on the perimeter, and the quarterbacks are up to the task, then things will open up, and I really feel like last year we played to the strengths of who we were and stayed true to who we were through the course of the season."
Utah's offense has clearly been the class of fall camp according to Whittingham, and that's not shocking considering how much of the offense returns.
Four of the five starters return at offensive line, led by all-Pac-12 players Nick Ford and Orlando Umana. The running backs are young but possess a tremendous amount of overall talent with three players vying for the starter's role.
The pass catchers are blessed with size, speed and athleticism as Bryan Thompson looks like a new man and tight end Brant Kuithe should be an All-American candidate. Add in the return of specialist Britain Covey and this unit looks like one of the best in the conference.
The quarterback position is the only question mark, but not in a bad way.
The battle is down to two quarterbacks, although Whittingham hasn't specified which two of Drew Lisk, Jake Bentley and Cam Rising are still left in the competition. They all bring certain traits that should benefit the offense regardless of who's starting.
“But if we have two really good ones then we’ll have a tough decision to make. I don’t see a platoon situation,” Whittingham said. “And so we’re just going to see how it plays out. We’ve still got, what, 12 more practices before we play or something like that. So we’ve got some opportunity. But we’ve got to get it down to one and that will most likely be in place Monday next week.“
This offense will put up points, a big number throughout the season. And if Utah is to make a run at a three-peat for the Pac-12 South Division title, it's going to come down to the offense.
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