Utah - TeamReport
NCAAF Team Report - Utah - INSIDE SLANT
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's team finished 5-7 for the second consecutive year after last week's 24-17 win over Colorado, but he believes the Utes are better than they were in 2012.
Pac-12 game before crumbling in the fourth quarter. After upsetting Stanford on Oct. 12, Utah lost five straight games to bowl eligible teams Arizona, USC, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington State.
The hard-luck Utes, beset by injury problems at the quarterback position, were close in each second half of those games before losing in the end.
"It's not about being close; close doesn't cut it," Whittingham said in his press conference following the victory over Colorado.
Utah's biggest offseason concern is its quarterback situation. The Utes won't know for three months whether Travis Wilson can resume his career after post-concussion medical tests revealed he has a condition in a brain artery that forced him to miss the last two games of the season.
Whittingham suggested that if Wilson can play, he will resume his role as Utah's starter. If he can't play, the Utes will hold an audition during the spring. The likely to emerge as the starter in that case would be freshman Connor Manning, a freshman who redshirted this year after breaking some of Matt Barkley's high school records.
"We have to proceed like (Wilson) isn't coming back because if we don't, it could be a really bad situation," Whittingham said.
Sophomore Adam Schulz, a former walk-on who started Utah's last three games in place of Wilson, will have experience in his favor, but the Utes coaches think highly of Manning. Brandon Cox, another freshman who redshirted, will be in the competition as well.
Wilson first suffered a hand injury at Arizona the week following the upset over the Cardinal. That injury de-railed Utah's season, according to Whittingham.
"After the Stanford game I thought we had a lot of momentum and it just fizzled," he said. "We didn't get that win down there in Arizona and then ? "
A recruiting priority for the Utes is improving the receiving depth and secondary. The lack of skill position players was obvious with receiver Dre Anderson and tight end Jake Murphy (who played through a wrist injury) being the only reliable threats and Utah recording only three interceptions all season.
Not one of Utah's three running backs -- Kelvin York, Bubba Poole or Lucky Radley -- emerged as a consistent threat out of the backfield. Poole (a junior next year) and Radley (a senior) return.
Utah's stringent defense, one that limited opponents to less than 100 yards rushing in five different games, loses three of its front seven. The most notable loss is Trevor Reilly, a defensive end-linebacker who led Utah in tackles (100), tackles for loss (16.0), sacks (8.5) and fumble recoveries (3). He was a key reason why Utah was tied for first in the nation with 39 sacks.
NCAAF Team Report - Utah - NOTES, QUOTES
GAME OF THE YEAR: Utah 27, Stanford 21. The October 12 against the No. 5 Cardinal made it appear that the Utes turned the corner toward respectability in the Pax-12. Quarterback Travis Wilson was lofted on the shoulders of celebrating fans after leading Utah to its biggest upset at home in school history. The Utes made a goal-line stand in the final minute and Wilson threw two touchdown passes in the victory. It was the first time in school history the Utes knocked off a top-five program at Rice-Eccles Stadium. They beat No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 season.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DE/LB Trevor Reilly -- The senior was the leader of one of the best defensive fronts in the Pac-12. The all-conference selection led Utah in tackles (100), tackles for lost yardage (16.0), sacks (8.5) and fumble recoveries (3). He was a primary reason why Utah was tied for first in the nation with 39 sacks.
FAST FORWARD: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, on the hot seat for consecutive losing seasons, appears to be safe from losing his job because of how Utah was competitive in every game despite injuries at the quarterback position. Utah loses 10 seniors, most notably Reilly, who also had the intangibles as a 25-year-old captain. The defensive secondary loses three starters, which may not be a bad thing inasmuch as the Utes tallied only three interceptions all season. The offensive and defensive lines must replace four starters -- LG Jeremiah Tofaeono, C Vyncent Jones, DT Tenny Palepoi and DT L.T. Tuipulotu -- who played key roles.