When Zack Moss is introduced to the fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium as a senior running back for the Utah Utes, it will be the final time in his illustrious career that he will have that honor.
Come Saturday, Moss and the rest of his fellow seniors — and possibly junior Jaylon Johnson — will all be honored in a pregame ceremony for their contributions to the Utah program over the course of the past 4-5 years.
"Well first the talent level. … We have a lot of talent and a bunch of really good players in this senior class,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham when asked about his senior class. “Two years ago when you would look at the roster, you could see it coming that this would be a year where there was going to be a lot of talent on the field and a lot of key players.”
Whittingham wasn’t joking when he talks of seniors playing key roles on the team, with Moss and starting quarterback Tyler Huntley taking over leadership roles while emerging as premier players in the country.
“Tyler Huntley is playing absolutely the best football of his career right now here at the University of Utah,” Whittingham said of his star QB. “He’s the one who everybody looks to. … He’s just doing so much for this football team. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s a self-made guy.”
“When he gets to the huddle, I tell (Zack) I’m watching him,” Huntley added of his backfield mate. “I tell him I’m his biggest fan because I’m watching him from behind live. It’s fun to watch them play every week.”
But this senior class is far and above just Moss and Huntley, with seven of the 19 players all hailing from the incoming 2016 recruiting class. Of those seven, five of them have been selected to play in Senior Bowl in January, a premier showcase for graduating seniors looking to make a case for the NFL.
Defensive linemen Bradlee Anae and Leki Fotu, along with Julian Blackmon and Terrell Burgess from the secondary and Moss have all been invited to the bowl game — a sixth senior, linebacker Francis Bernard who began his career at BYU, has also been invited.
“You could see it coming. And just because you see it coming or see a chance, doesn't always mean it happens, but these guys have made it happen,” Whittingham said of how this senior class has changed the outcome of Utah football. “Their work ethic, their leadership, their approach to the game has all come together and it has been a special season so far. There is still work to do, but so far it has been enjoyable."
When Saturday’s game ends, the legacy that this senior class leaves is one that Whittingham and his players expect to live on. .
"I want to give a little shout out to our fans to please arrive early on Saturday and make sure those stands are full for when those seniors are announced prior to kickoff,” Whittingham said. “I think it is important to get people in the stands and honor the seniors the right way. It would be a big plus for us and a positive for them."