This team - and the season itself - have ample amounts of mystery. I’m not going to take the time to quantify all the caveats… it’s been a helluva year. I’m just glad things are proceeding toward playing.
Agree with the numerous comments about the new schedule - it appears to be back-loaded, which is exactly what a team with so many new faces needs.
3 week delay on the season start, which I assume means camp will be at least 2 weeks late - maybe an extra week of camp to deal with contingencies? It would help, this year.
I’m going to try a conventional analysis, and try to ignore the major caveat situations related to Covid, testing/re-testing, quarantines, game postponements, what kind of a crowd - if any - is allowed, etc.
We’ve done well with recruiting, we’ve got a roster, we’ve got proven coaches, and we have a schedule. That’s enough, at this point, to sketch out what the team could look like, and take a shot at how we might line up in Week 1, at Pullman.
Defense - No question there are a LOT of holes to plug, which translates into opportunity for a lot of young players.
Corners & Nickel: I’ve seen projections of JT Broughton & Clark Phillips III as potential replacements for Jaylon Johnson & Josh Nurse / Tareke Lewis, but the SL Trib mentioned CP3 as being projected as a NB (replacing Guidry).
Regardless, those 2 are talented and will play. Phillips backed out of his commitment to Ohio State to be our highest rated signee ever, and Broughton has good size at 6-0/190 and was a track star, certainly passed the eyeball test last year playing on ST, and I’m assuming Phillips is as advertised.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Vonte Davis makes a trip back to the cover positions, as he was depth on the back end, and wasn’t going to dislodge Johnson, Nurse, Lewis or Guidry last year.
Having a season at safety can only help in understanding what Scalley dials up on defense, so Davis could play on the LOS or on the back end. If he can help simulate the kind of coverage masking and late playclock coverage moves we made last year with Blackmon & Burgess, that could be his ticket to significant game snaps.
Bronson Boyd has been mentioned as a possible contributor on the outside. We’ll see. How many guys have emerged as Juniors in the perennially good Utah defense? Answer: more than I could name.
Safeties - Davis & RJ Hubert are the only returning safeties with game snaps, but incoming FR Nate Ritchie could emerge as a tall, long, rangey playmaker.
If Hubert is fully healed, he’s a day 1 starter, but who the other S will be is yet to be seen. Nephi Sewell looked promising at the very end of the year when Blackmon & Hubert got hurt. On the current roster he’s listed at 210 as LB, but with so many unanswered questions, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets snaps on the back end.
Malone Mata’ele has been in the program for 2 years, stuck behind guys now in the NFL. Previously he’s been penciled in on the back end and at NB. Is this the year he makes a mark?
We have a number of guys with a year under their belts - it’s unknown just what their upside is.
- Aaron Lowe - 6-0/180 from Texas
- Drew Rawls - 6-0/184 from Texas
Incoming FR who could emerge:
- Caine Savage - 5-11/170 from SoCal
- Ben Renfro - 6-1/188 from Texas
- Marques Hamilton 6-0/164 - don’t sleep on this kid, maybe not this year.
I know I’m missing some guys, and we could easily see players switching sides, etc - there’s much more mystery about the defensive backfield than we typically have to deal with.
It will be fun to see how Shah & Scalley sculpt this group.
(DL & Backers coming soon.)