The top 10 Utah football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
DT Lowell Lotulelei, Jr.
Anything’s possible, but in all likelihood this will be Lotulelei’s final year as an amateur athlete. After dominating in the Pac-12 the past two seasons, he’s almost ready to take his game to Sundays, where brother Star plays for the Carolina Panthers. The younger Lotulelei, all 6-2 and 310 pounds of him, operates with the strength, leverage and toughness needed to excel on the interior. And despite only making 26 tackles, five stops for loss and a sack, he a central reason why Utah continues to be so stingy versus the run.
OT J.J. Dielman, Sr.
Dielman has been a rather well-kept secret outside of Salt Lake City the past few years. But that figures to change in 2016, especially within NFL scouting circles. The 6-5, 300-pound Dielman is a good pass blocker, but he’s a borderline dominant run blocker, which has been evident on film in each of the last two seasons. After being named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team in 2015, the senior is eyeing the All-America Team in his final year of eligibility.
DE Hunter Dimick, Sr.
Dimick is neither the biggest nor the fastest defensive lineman in the Pac-12, but good luck finding a peer who can outwork him. The try-hard 6-3, 272-pounder has been productive in each of his past two seasons, though last year was marred by a season-halving injury. Still, Dimick was effective when he returned to action, collecting seven tackles for loss and three sacks in just five starts. With a full slate of games, he’ll be an All-Pac-12 lock.
DE Kylie Fitts, Sr.
Fitts was a hit for the Utes in his first season since transferring from Utah. The former blue-chip recruit provided steady pressure in Salt Lake City, particularly when Hunter Dimick was out of commission on the other side of the line. The 6-4, 265-pound Fitts, whose motor rarely slows down, ended up with a team-high seven sacks and 10 pass breakups, testament to his ability to obstruct the field of vision for opposing quarterbacks.
FS Marcus Williams, Jr.
Williams’ career with the Utes is off and running. In his first year as a full-timer, he didn’t just handle the role. He rose all the way up the All-Pac-12 First Team by making 66 stops and a team-high five interceptions. Williams ticks off all of the boxes for a successful free safety—smart, well-sized at 6-1 and 195 pounds and flexible enough to contribute in multiple different areas. Best of all, he’s only just begun to evolve as the quarterback of the secondary.
OG Isaac Asiata, Sr.
Asiata is one of the rocks up front in Salt Lake City. A seasoned veteran of 30 starts, he’s expected to anchor left guard for one final season in 2016. Asiata is a prototypical road grader for the Ute ground game, locking on and ushering his man off the ball. Plus, at 6-3 and 323 pounds, he’s one of the strongest players on the team and a tone-setter for the entire offense.
PK Andy Phillips, Sr.
Phillips has one final year of eligibility to show why he’s one of the nation’s top kickers. More than just a powerful leg, he’s also clutch in key moments of tight games. A rather remarkable story, Philips never played football prior to walking on with the Utes in 2012. In fact, he’s far more prolific on the slopes than on grass, competing from 2007-11 on the U.S. Ski Team. Through three seasons, Phillips has nailed 63-of-75 field goals, including all three tries beyond 50 yards.
RB Joe Williams, Sr.
The Utes got a sneak peak of life without Devontae Booker after the star back was injured late last year. Williams filled in admirably in his first year removed from ASA (N.Y.) College, rushing for 477 yards and three touchdowns on 104 carries. Against UCLA and Colorado, the 5-11, 205-pound burner erupted for well over 100 yards in a display of his potential. And now Williams is going to get a shot to be the guy in an offense that’s strong up front and uncertain in the passing game.
DT Filipo Mokofisi, Jr.
While the numbers didn’t reflect it, Mokofisi delivered a solid first season in the starting lineup. He played in nine games, including seven starts at right tackle, missing a month to injury. The local product registered 21 tackles, 3.5 stops for loss and 1.5 sacks, while serving as the pass rush option from the inside. Mokofisi is quick and high-energy at 6-3 and 278 pounds, allowing him to also slide outside when it’s needed.
CB Reginald Porter, Sr.
Porter returned from a season-ending injury in 2014 to start nine games a year ago. And he played well in the most extensive action of his Ute career, making 38 tackles and a team-high 11 pass breakups. The 5-11, 185-pounder from Louisiana proved effective against the run and the pass, a trend that’s expected to continue now that he’s another full year removed from being on the shelf.