Utah’s welcome to the Pac-12 last season was not pleasant. Their first game in the conference was a last second loss at the Coliseum to USC, and in their second game, they lost quarterback (and half of their offense) Jordan Wynn for the season. The Utes would go 0-4 in conference play before registering their first Pac-12 win vs. Oregon State on the final weekend of October.

Somehow, they recovered from the brutal start with a strong November that had them in contention for the Pac-12 South Championship in the final week of the season. But their bid fell short in a crazy game v. Colorado that saw them lose John White (the other half of their offense) to injury and miss three field goals. That three point loss knocked them out of the title game and handed the Division Championship to UCLA.

This Season Utah will look very different in spite of returning the most starters in the Pac. Last season with Jordan Wynn injured, Utah attempted the fewest passes in the Pac-12. With Wynn back in action this year, Utah will place more emphasis on the passing game and, take  advantage of its considerable talent at WR.

The Utes also changed Offensive Coordinators in the offseason when Norm Chow left for Hawai’i. Brian Johnson (who still has a few former teammates on Utah’s team) will become the youngest coordinator in the FBS at 25. Johnson was Utah’s most successful quarterback ever and is bringing back elements of the Spread Option offense that he and Alex Smith used in Utah’s undefeated seasons in 2004 and 2008.  Jordan Wynn isn’t much of a running threat, but he’ll be back in the shotgun much more this year and prove that he doesn’t mind moving the pocket.


With Utah, we can take “Star Watch” literally because Utah’s best player is Senior DT Star Lotulelei. The former JC transfer rapidly became the star of Utah’s smashmouth defensive front last season and enters this year as a known quantity. He’s a preseason 1st team All-American and Mel Kiper is already projecting him as a top 10 pick in next spring’s NFL Draft.

Also on defense, head-hunting safety Brian Blechen (#4) is the Utes leading returning tackler and one of the most entertaining defensive players in the Pac.

On offense, Utah features the Pac-12’s top returning rusher in TB John White IV. The Wolfman rushed for 117 ypg last season and remains a threat to average triple digits again this year. Utah’s coaching staff hopes that an improved passing game and two new talented tailbacks will lessen White’s load, but the Senior tailback is a dark horse Heisman Candidate and should have a huge season.

ROSTER CHANGES: Utah loses All Pac (2nd and 1st team respectively) tackles, John Cullen, and Tony Bergstrom. The Utes plan to replace them with Miles Mason, a Senior who has started for the Utes previously at guard, and Percey Taumoleau. A Junior who’s played in 16 games as in two seasons as a backup.

At quarterback, the Utes welcome back Jordan Wynn and added a big QB recruit in Oceanside star Travis Wilson.  Lack of depth at QB last year kept the Utes from getting much production from their passing game. That’s a shame because in DeVonte Christopher and Dres Anderson, the Utes have some of the most exciting receiving talent in the Pac-12. Expect to hear much more from Christopher and Anderson this year as Utah’s offense diversifies.

SCHEDULE: Utah just opened with FCS doormat Northern Colorado and moves on to play two games against in-state rivals, Utah State and BYU. The Pac-12 schedule allows the Utes to avoid Oregon and Stanford yet again. However, the Utes play 5 road games in conference and one of their 4 home games is against USC.

PROSPECTS: The schedule is probably the toughest in Utah football history and last season, the Utes didn’t exactly set the Pac-12 on fire. But adding an experienced starting QB to an offense that has 9 returning starters and considerable talent at the skill positions should make all the difference in the world.

Kyle Whittingham defenses are always excellent and Utah brings back many stars from a 2011 D that finished #1 in the Pac in scoring defense in spite of an offense that was 10th in time of possession.

They say that defense wins Championships, and Utah’s will be one of the best in the Pac again this season. If the offense comes along under Brian Johnson, Utah would be the South’s best hope to beat USC and steal a division Championship.