Preview 2018: Utah Utes. The Pac-12 Window Is Open

Preview 2018: Utah Utes. The Pac-12 Window Is Open

2018 Preview

Preview 2018: Utah Utes. The Pac-12 Window Is Open

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What You Need To Know About The Utah Defense

– Seven starters are back on a D that might not have been its normal self – the pass rush wasn’t exactly Utah dominant – but it still finished third in both total and scoring defense. It was sound against the run and the secondary finished second in pass efficiency defense.

It starts with the linebacking corps that loses the team’s top two tacklers – Kavika Luafatasaga and Sunia Tauteoli – but moves Chase Hansen from safety to linebacker and has a good veteran in Donavan Thompson. This will be another active corps that won’t have many issues. But …

– The pass rush from the defensive front needs to be stronger. Bradley Anae led the team with seven sacks, and Cody Barton came up with four from his hybrid role, but the next four pass rushers are gone after a disappointing 25 sack season.

The size is there in the interior with four 300-pounders ready to rotate, starting with 6-5, 317-pound Leki Fotu, and they’ll hold firm. Now the ends have to do their part.

– Even though the pass rush wasn’t quite up to its normal snuff – it wasn’t bad, by the way – the secondary still did its part. 6-1 Julian Blackmon is one of the Pac-12’s best corners, and with 6-4 Tyrone Smith likely to play a role on the other side, the Utes have big, physical playmakers. As long as Marquise Blair is healthy, the safeties will be terrific, too.

Biggest Key To The Utah Defense

Okay, so the pass rush did matter. To beat the point into the ground, Utah made 43 sacks in 2016 and 37 the year before. Last season, the D generated six in the six losses and 19 in the seven wins. The same went for the tackles for loss, generating 102 two years ago and just 65 last season. Utah isn’t quite Utah when the defense isn’t living in the backfield.

NEXT: Top Players, Final Prediction & What Will Happen

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