After a disappointing 2020 season that involved three wins, two losses, and one big Covid-19 outbreak, the Utah Utes are back. Here’s a look at what fans can expect this season.
This year’s team looks a bit different. For starters, Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer will be QB1 this year. Brewer comes in with plenty of experience, as this is technically his fifth season playing quarterback, having his eligibility extended one season. Utes fans have plenty to be excited about Brewer beating out sophomore Cam Rising, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Utes’ first game of 2020. Now that Brewer has the job, it gives Rising the chance to further develop for future seasons.
When asked what Brewer brings to the offense, Coach Kyle Whittingham wasn’t short on praise. “[He’s] poised. Calm under pressure. Decisive. Gets the ball out of his hand quickly. Accurate thrower. He has a good pocket presence.”
Beyond Brewer, there are a few new faces for the Utes. Oklahoma transfer Theo Howard came in during the summer, and will now be leading an increasingly talented wide receiver core. The six-foot senior looks to start the season as the X receiver, and probably Brewer’s top target.
Transfer running backs T.J. Pledger (Oklahoma) and Chris Curry (LSU) are expected to be making significant contributions behind Micah Bernard, who returns. Look for them to be rotated through different running packages that the Utes bring up, as they both are talented enough to make contributions.
On the other side of the ball, former safety Nephi Sewell will now be starting at linebacker, allowing room for Washington transfer Brandon Mckinnie to start at strong safety. Mckinnie is in his senior year, having played three years for the Huskies, but is a great addition for a young Utah defense.
A Defensive Identity
The Utes’ have always hung their hat on their defense, mostly thanks to Kyle Whittingham and the program he cultivates. Last year, however, there were legitimate doubts on that side of the ball. Utah fielded nine new defensive starters, many of whom were freshmen, like cornerback Clark Phillips III.
Because of COVID-19, Phillips III is technically still a freshman, however, the four-star recruit believes the tem has come a long way as a defensive unit. “We’re all taking strides. We’ve been able to capitalize on reps,” the young DB said. “The spring was so valuable. The season was valuable. There were only five games. We got some valuable reps. You’re gonna see something special this year.”
What to Watch For
- Charlie Brewer, Britain Covey, Brant Kuithe and Theo Howard. These guys are explosive playmakers who can take the Utes’ offense to another level. Covey comes back as a familiar face to be both a slot receiver and return specialist, while Kuithe looks to reprise his role as a tight end. Both Covey and Kuithe should make life easier for Howard to get open.
- Clark Phillips III and Brandon Mckinnie should be ball hawks this year and snag a bunch of interceptions. The duo will likely handle the best receivers the other teams will have to offer, and will do so capably. I believe that these guys have what it takes to be NFL players.
- A season preview wouldn’t be complete without some season predictions. I predict the Utes will go 9-3 this season, dropping games against USC, Oregon, and Washington in the regular season. It’s Oregon’s conference to lose, but if they do win out, perhaps they could at least make the playoffs.