2008 CFN Utah Preview
Utah WR Brent Casteel
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Utah Utes
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2006 CFN Utah
BYU, BYU, BYU. It's all about BYU and its "Quest For
Perfection," but shhhhhh, here's the little secret that'll quickly
get out: Utah might be every bit as good.
While the Cougars are being hailed as possible BCS busters, if that
term even really applies anymore, Utah actually got into the big
show in 2004, has won five straight bowl games, and with wins over
teams like Louisville, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Cal, Texas A&M, Pitt,
North Carolina and Georgia Tech, is a fantastic 10-4 against BCS
league teams over the last five seasons. So why doesn't the team get
Head coach: Kyle Whittingham
4th year: 24-14
Off. 28, Def. 24 ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 19
Best Ute Players
2.P/K Louie Sakoda, Sr.
3. RB Darrell Mack, Sr.
4. CB Brice McCain, Sr.
5. LB Stevenson Sylvester, Jr.
6. OG Caleb Schlauderaff, Soph.
7. OT Zane Beadles, Jr.
8. OG Robert Conley, Sr.
9. WR Brent Casteel, Sr.
10. RB Matt Asiata, Jr.
CFN Prediction: 10-2
2008 Record: 0-0
Sept. 6 UNLV
Sept. 13 at Utah State
Sept. 20 at Air Force
Sept. 27 Weber State
Oct. 2 Oregon State
Oct. 11 at Wyoming
Oct. 18 Colorado State
Nov. 1 at New Mexico
Nov. 6 TCU
Nov. 15 at San Diego State
Nov. 22 BYU
CFN Prediction: 8-4
2007 Record: 9-4
Oregon State L 24-7
Sept. 15 UCLA
Louisville W 44-35
TCU W 27-20
at Colorado State
Dec. 20 Navy 35-32
All the Utes did was overcome
a 1-3 start, with the one win coming over UCLA 44-6, to finish 9-4.
Despite losing QB Brian Johnson for a stretch with a broken collarbone,
and starting RB Matt Asiata for the season in the opening day loss to
Oregon State, the team didn't give up on the years, picked up the pieces
and reeled off seven straight wins. And then there was BYU.
For the second straight season, the Utes had the Cougars beaten needing
one stop on a final drive, and for the second year in a row a miracle
play saved BYU's day. This year, the Cougars come to Salt Lake City, and
if everyone stays healthy for Utah, the focus could be just as much on
the red side of the field as it likely will be on on the white.
Even with question marks on the defensive front seven, this is head
coach Kyle Whittingham's best team in his four years at the helm. The
offense is loaded, the secondary is peerless, and the kicking game,
thanks to the all-around talents of Louie Sakoda, is among the best in
Now the team has to play up to the talent level and get to November 22nd
with a chance to win the Mountain West title ... and maybe more.
What to watch for on offense:
The ground game should be even stronger. The
Utes were great at pounding the ball with Darrell Mack, and now Asiata
is back to provide a dangerous 1-2 power punch. Each can carry the
offense and each can produce big-time numbers, and now they have to show
they can form a steady rotation.
What to watch for on defense: Plenty of attention to the
interior. The Utah run defense was fine, but it wasn't anything special.
To improve and be good enough to win the Mountain West, tackles Aaron
Tonga, Lei Talamaivao, and Kenape Eliapo have to be special. They have
the upside and the skill to form a brick wall of an interior, and they
have enough overall athleticism to get into the backfield.
The team will be far better if … Johnson becomes Johnson
again. Is he ready and able to come out and let it rip? A rising star a
few years ago, now this is his last chance to live up to his immense
potential, but it'll only happen if he's finally healthy. If everything
is right, he has the talent and the experience to be the Mountain West's
best quarterback, and possibly the best player, but he can't be the
tentative leader he had to be last year when he was trying to play
through his healing collarbone injury.
The Schedule: If Utah is as good as
expected, it should relished its chance to prove itself
in the opener at Michigan, who should be still trying to put the Rich
Rodriguez puzzle together. Easing into the Mountain West schedule
against UNLV is nice, and TCU and BYU have to come to Salt Lake City.
The off-week comes at a perfect time in late October just before the
vital finishing kick at New Mexico, TCU, at San Diego State and BYU. The
non-conference schedule has yawners against Utah State and Weber State
to go along with dates against the Wolverines and Oregon State.
Best Offensive Player:
Senior QB Brian Johnson. Even though he was fighting through
injuries, he still had a nice year throwing for 1,847 yards and 11
touchdowns, but he was good for an interception a game and wasn't the
same runner he was back in 2005. A great leader and a smart decision
maker, he has to show that he can be 100% by the start of the season for
the offense to explode.
Best Defensive Player:
Brice McCain. While he's not all that big, the 5-9, 189-pounder is tough
as nails as a tackler and one of the Mountain West's best pure cover
corner. If he's not the league's fastest corner, he's close, and he'll
be the won the fantastic secondary works around. It'll be McCain's job
to man up on everyone's top receiving option in key situations.
Key player to a
Junior LB Mike Wright. Can the former walk-on from Southern Utah really
be the major playmaker in the middle of the defense? The rest of the
linebacking corps will also be a question mark, but it's extremely
promising. Needing a leader, Wright could be it, and even though he's
not an all-star, he could put up huge numbers with everything flowing
The season will be a
... the Utes win the Mountain West title. There's too much potential
firepower on offense, too many good pieces to play with on defense, and
a weapon in kicker Louie Sakoda to count on in a pinch. It's not going
to be easy, but after the way last year played out, anything less than a
league championship will be a major disappointment.
Nov. 22 vs. BYU. If the game is half as good as the last two, it'll be
one of the must-see showdowns of the year. The Utes are two late stops
away from being on a six game winning streak over their hated
arch-rival. If the Cougars are as good as expected, this might be for a
BCS spot and not just the Mountain West title.
2007 Fun Stats:
- First quarter scoring: Utah 68 – Opponents 19
- Fumbles: Opponents 24 (lost 16) – Utah 16 (lost 9)
- Interception return average: Opponents 11.2 yards – Utah 6.8 yards