4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE UTAH DEFENSE
– The Utah defense came up with its best season in a decade. It led the Pac-12 and finished fifth in the nation against the run, dominated in the backfield, and ended up 14th in the country in total D, allowing 316 yards and 19 points per game. The top four tacklers are gone, but this is still a loaded group that should be among the nation’s best again, mainly because …
– The defensive line is going to be a killer. With the addition of 6-6, 315-pound Hawaii transfer Viane Moala to go along with 318-pound John Penisini and 327-pound Leki Futu – and more bulk in the rotation – good luck working inside on this group. That takes the pressure off all-star pass rusher Bradlee Anae on one end and with veterans rotating on the other side.
– The linebacking corps loses top two tacklers Cody Barton and Chase Hansen, but 230-pound sophomore Devin Lloyd is coming of a terrific offseason, and Penn State grad transfer Manny Bowen will be among the team’s leading tacklers on the inside.
– There’s some likely shuffling going on in the secondary. Julian Blackmon was and is a terrific corner, but he’ll get a shot to use his skills at free safety. In what amounts to a 4-2-5, the safeties are fine after the move, even after losing the top guys from last season. Veteran options are in place to fill the corner spot in fall camp on the other side of Jaylon Johnson.