Utah Utes Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Utah Utes Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

College Football Features

Utah Utes Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

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Utah Utes Preview 2022: Offense

The Utah offense blew up.

It was more dynamic, stronger at scoring, and was its normal brutally efficient self as it finished eighth in the nation in third down conversions, first in the Pac-12 in first downs, and averaged 431 yards and 36 points per game.

It’s a loaded O returning, starting with an offensive line with three expected starters back and two all-stars on the left side in Braden Daniels at tackle and Sataoa Laumea at guard. The line was fourth in the nation in pass protection and pounded away for 217 rushing yards per game. It’s Utah. The blocking will be fantastic.

In a time of tragedy for the program – 2020 leading rusher Ty Jordan passed away, and corner Aaron Lowe was lost a few months later – Tavion Thomas stepped up in place for Jordan and ran for, 1,108 yards and 21 scores. The 6-2, 238-pound all-star can handle the workload, and Micah Bernard averaged over six yards per carry on his 529 yards.

It was supposed to be Charlie Brewer’s passing game – the former quarterback only played in three games and is now at Liberty – but Cameron Rising stepped up and led the way to a Pac-12 title and within a whisker of winning the Rose Bowl.

Rising is missing his key midrange receiver – and star return man – Britain Covey, but leading receiver Brant Kuithe is back at one tight end spot and Dalton Kincaid and his team-leading eight touchdown catches returns at another spot. The wide receivers are young, but dangerous led by sophomore Devaughn Vele, who averaged 17 yards per catch.

Utah Utes Preview 2022: Defense

The defense might not have been able to stop Ohio State, but it was great against just about everyone else. The run defense was amazing, the pass rush was among the best in the nation and tops in the Pac-12, and there’s a whole lot of talent back.

However, heart-and-soul linebacker Devin Lloyd and running mate Nephi Sewell are almost irreplaceable. Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabate is going to give it a try for Lloyd in the middle – he made 170 tackles and 5.5 sacks for the Gators in three seasons.

The pass rush will come from several new spots, but it’s sophomore Van Fillinger who has to shine at one end – he’s the leading returning pass rusher with 5.5 sacks – but it was Lloyd and former end Mike Tafua who spent most of their time living behind the line.

As always, Utah has terrific big tackles to work with. 6-3, 297-pound sophomore Junior Tafuna will be the man man with former BYU Cougar Devin Kaufusi playing a bigger role after coming up with 13 stops.

The Utes have a superstar corner in Clark Phillips – he made 62 tackles with two sacks and 13 broken up passes – and safety Cole Bishop is coming off a 55-stop season. On the way to work in the mix at safety is Clayton Isbell, a star on the FCS level at Illinois State who can up with 62 tackles and three picks last season.

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