Utah Utes 2016 Preview

Previewing the 2016 Utah Utes

The biggest game of the year is coming in week two with BYU heading to Rice-Eccles Stadium to face the Utah Utes. Utah heads into this game carrying a five-game win streak in the rivalry with BYU coming up short in every year since 2009’s overtime win which ended with a touchdown pass to Andrew George.

The difference in the last five games, Utah has dominated the turnover battle by forcing 19 turnovers and scoring off of turnovers 17 times. Other than turnovers, BYU has held Utah in check as they’ve only had seven scoring drives that didn’t come from a turnover. BYU has the benefit of two experienced seniors in the backfield in Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams with Williams never having lost a fumble in his BYU career.

The most intriguing story line of the week may be the return of BYU Head Coach Kalani Sitake to Rice-Eccles as he spent ten years under the tutelage of Kyle Whittingham as the linebacker coach and then being promoted to the defensive coordinator and then assistant head coach. BYU hopes to begin the Kalani Sitake era by snapping the five-game skid against Utah.

Utah Utes 2015 Record: 10-3

vs Michigan 24-17 W

vs Utah State 24-14 W #24

@ Fresno State 45-24 W #21

@ #13 Oregon 62-20 W #18

vs #23 California 30-24 W #5

vs #17 Arizona State 34-18 W #4

@ USC 24-42 L #3

vs Oregon State 27-12 W #13

@ Washington 34-23 W #13

@ Arizona 30-37 L (2OT) #10

vs UCLA 9-17 L #18

vs Colorado 20-14 W

vs BYU 35-28 W

Utah Utes 2016 Record: 1-0

vs Southern Utah 24-0 W

vs BYU

@ San Jose State

vs USC

@ California

vs Arizona

@ Oregon State


vs #8 Washington

@ Arizona State

vs #24 Oregon

@ Colorado

Kalani Sitake vs. Kyle Whittingham

Kyle Whittingham:

Season: 11th

Record: 95-46

Home: 51-18

vs Non-Conf: 40-8

vs BYU: 7-3

Kalani Sitake:

Season: 1st

Record: 1-0

Away: 0-0

BYU vs Utah:

      Largest Margin of Victory: 56-6 (’80)

      Largest Margin of Loss: 40-0 (’22)

      Longest Win Streak: 9 (’79-’87)

      Longest Losing Streak: 9 (’29-’37)

      Last Game: 28-35 L (’15)

Utah depth chart


QB: Troy Williams (JR)/Tyler Huntley (FR)

RB: Joe Williams (SR)/Troy McCormick (JR)

LT: Garett Bolles (JR)/Jackson Barton (SO)

LG: Isaac Asiata (SR)/Darrin Paulo (FR)

C: JJ Dielman (SR)/Lo Falemaka (JR)

RG: Salesi Uhatafe (JR)/Nick Nowakowski (SR)

RT: Sam Tevi (SR)/Jackson Barton (SO)

TE: Harrison Handley (JR) OR Evan Moeai (SR)

WR (X): Tyrone Smith (SO)/Caleb Repp (SO)

WR (Z): Tim Patrick (SR)/Realon Singleton (SO)

WR (H): Kyle Fulks (JR)/Demari Simpkins (FR)


DE: Hunter Dimick (SR)/Bradlee Anae (FR)

DT: Filipo Mokofisi (JR)/Pasoni Tasini (SR)

DT: Lowell Lotulelei (JR)/Pasoni Tasini (SR)

DE: Pita Taumoepenu (SR)/Kylie Fitts (SR)

MLB Sunia Tauteoli (JR)/Donavan Thompson (FR)

RLB: Cody Barton (SO)/Kavika Luafatasaga (JR)

CB: Dominique Hatfield (SR)/Tavaris Williams (SO)

SS: Chase Hansen (SO)/Jason Thompson (SR)

FS: Marcus Williams (JR)/Andre Godrey (JR)

CB: Reginald Porter (SR)/Brian Allen (SR)

NB: Justin Thomas (SR)/Boobie Hobbs (JR)

Special Teams:

Punter: Mitch Wishnowsky (SO)

Kicker: Andy Phillips (SR)

Kick Off: Andy Phillips (SR)

LS: Chase Dominguez (SR)

PR: Boobie Hobbs (JR)/Justin Thomas (SR)

KR: Terrell Burgess (FR) AND Julian Blackmon (FR)

Holder: Mitch Wishnowsky (SO)


Utah’s 2016 offense features a new look with the departures of quarterback Travis Wilson and star running back Devontae Booker. Utah notoriously featured a heavy dose of downhill power-run attack. The Utes also lose last years number one receiving threat in Britain Covey to mission service. While they lose plenty of key experience, there is lots of optimism surrounding the Utah offense with the talent that they’re brought in in JuCo transfer Troy Williams who put up video game-like numbers at Santa Monica Community College. Utah also features a veteran offensive line which hopefully can continue the tradition of physical play at the line of scrimmage. While they struggled to do that in week one, there is always growth and progression during every week of the season.

As mentioned above, Troy Williams is re-acclimating himself to the speed of division one football. Originally signing with Washington in 2014, he did see some playing time with the Huskies as a true freshman completing 23 of 36 passes for 176 yards while rushing the ball 16 times for 25 yards and one touchdown. Following the 2014 season, Williams sought a fresh start and transferred to Santa Monica CC where he complete 180 of 265 passes for 2750 yards and 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. In week one against FCS foe Southern Utah, Williams completed 20 of 35 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns while taking two sacks. It will be interesting to see how Williams performs in his first game against an FBS opponent against BYU this weekend.

Utah’s running back group will be by committee as they work to replace star back Devontae Booker. BYU saw Joe Williams in last years bowl game where he finished with 25 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns as well as two receptions for 22 yards. Williams split time last week against Southern Utah with backfield mate Troy McCormick with each player getting 12 carries. McCormick led the way with 55 yards and one touchdown as well as three receptions for 55 yards while Williams had 49 yards rushing and three catches for -2 yards. Expect to see McCormick with more snaps in the backfield due to his versatile and explosive play in week one.

Utah will try to replace their three most productive receivers from 2015 this year. Britain Covey, Kenneth Scott, and Devontae Booker were the leading pass catchers for the Utes and all three have left the team. The leading returner is TE Harrison Handley who had 21 catches for 286 yards and 4 TD’s after being named the starter following injuries to Evan Moeai and Siale Fakalioatonga. The Utes saw big play out of Tim Patrick against Southern Utah where he totaled five catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Patrick is a big body who will be heavily emphasized with new receivers coach Guy Holliday and he’ll see the ball thrown his way plenty of times on Saturday.

Utah’s offensive line brings plenty of experience in 2016 with high expectations but they struggled to establish the line of scrimmage against Southern Utah and were unable to provide a strong run game like Utah has depended on in the past. Tackles Garrett Bolles and Sam Tevi struggled the most against SUU’s pass rush. Bolles came in as a five-star JuCo transfer from Snow College but appeared to be a step behind against D1 competition. JJ Dielman and Isaac Asiata are the anchors on the offensive line and will provide a challenge for BYU’s defensive tackles. It will be a battle in the trenches that will strongly implicate the results of Saturday’s game. The biggest adjustment typically comes in week one to week two so it will be seen if Utah can create some cohesion and adjustments as they prepare to play the Cougars.

2015 Team Stats:

Points Scored Per Game: 30.6

      2016: 24

Rushing Yardage: 2379

      Returning for 2016: 492 (20.7%)

      2016: 162

Receiving Yardage: 2340

      Returning for 2016: 707 (30.2%)

      2016: 298

Passing Yardage: 2340

      Returning for 2016: 0 (0%)

      2016: 298

Total Offense: 7059

      Returning for 2016: 1199 (16.9%)

      2016: 758

Fumbles: 24

      Recovered: 14

      Lost: 10

   2016: 2

      Recovered: 1

      Lost: 1

Interceptions: 11

      Returning for 2016: 0

      2016: 0

Sacks Allowed: 23 (-157 yds)

      2016: 2 (-15 yds)

First Downs: 263

        Rushing: 136

        Passing: 102

        Penalty: 25

   2016: 19

        Rushing: 8

        Passing: 11

        Penalty: 0

Third Down Conversion: 82/200 (41%)

      2016: 8/17 (47.1%)

Fourth Down Conversion: 16/24 (66.7%)

      2016: 1/1 (100%)

Penalties: 72 (-693 yds)

      2016: 6 (-40 yds)

Red Zone Efficiency: 42/46 (91.3%)

      2016: 3/5 (60%)

Red Zone TDs: 28/46 (60.9%)

      2016: 2/5 (40%)

PAT Attempts: 47/47 (100%)

      2016: 2/2 (100%)

Individual Stats:

Returning from 2015 Season

RB Joe Williams: 79 carries for 386 yds and 1 TD, 9 catches for 62 yds; TE Harrison Handley: 19 receptions for 270 yds and 4 TDs; WR Tyrone Smith: 17 receptions for 178 yds; WR Realon Singleton: 6 receptions for 49 yards

vs Southern Utah

QB Troy Williams: 20/35 for 272 yds and 2 TDs, 5 carries for 15 yards; RB Troy McCormick: 12 carries for 55 yards and 1 TD, 3 receptions for 55 yards; RB Joe Williams: 12 carries for 49 yards, 3 receptions for -2 yards; WR Tim Patrick: 5 receptions for 105 yards and 2 TDs; WR Raelon Singleton: 2 receptions for 56 yards; WR Tyrone Smith: 3 receptions for 31 yards; TE Evan Moeai: 1 reception for 18 yards


It’ll be a tough match up on Saturday when the Cougar offense goes toe-to-toe with the Utah defense. The Utes return plenty of experience in the trenches with Lowell Lotulelei, Hunter Dimick, and Kylie Fitts all with NFL potential. The Utes also feature a strong secondary with 1st-team all-Pac-12 safety Marcus Williams leading the group. Chase Hansen made a move from QB to Safety and has shown flashes of potential in his limited playing time. Utah replaces their linebackers from the 2015 season and are certainly the weakspot of the defense and can be a point that BYU will try to exploit to get the win. Utah plays an aggressive brand of defense with the aim to force turnovers, which BYU knows all too well giving up 19 turnovers in the last five games against the Utes.

The strength of this defense has been a vaunted defense that has produced plenty of NFL talent over the years. The nickname “Sack Lake City” has been given to this team and they’ve lived up to the hype with consistent defensive line play over the years. The group will be led by Hunter Dimick and Lowell Lotulelei with Dimick lining up on the outside and Lowell on the inside. The group also includes UCLA-transfer Kylie Fitts who filled in nicely after Dimick went down to injury last year. BYU may also have some issues with rush end Pita Taumoepenu who is possibly the best speed rusher in the Pac-12, if not the entire country. BYU’s offensive line will have their hands full in the trenches this weekend.

The linebacker core lost all three of their starters from 2015 to graduation. The team has changed their scheme up a bit by removing a third linebacker and replacing it with a nickelback. The starters at linebacker are Sunia Tauteoli at MLB and Cody Barton at RLB in their first season starting. The defense will give some different looks on defense with Pita T rushing as a stand up edge, essentially taking the place of a weak side linebacker or even safety Chase Hansen moving in the box to fill the role of a linebacker due to his athleticism. The linebackers are the weakest part of this Utah defense and BYU will try to exploit them through play-action and ride option plays.

As talented as the Ute’s defensive line is, the team’s secondary may be every bit as good. The team is led by free safety Marcus Williams who was named first team all-Pac-12 in 2015 and has all-american aspirations. Williams is the leading tackler returning for 2016 and also had five interceptions and five pass break ups. Chase Hansen will play the strong safety position after making the move from quarterback last year eventually earning the starting role before he was injured on the last play of the game against Washington. Justin Thomas and Reggie Porter combined for 17 pass break ups in 2015 and are big time playmakers in the secondary. Domo Hatfield adds some length and leadership to the cornerback position and had 4 interceptions in 2015.

2015 Team Stats:

Points Allowed Per Game: 22.3

      2016: 0

Turnover Ratio: 34:22

      2016: 2:1

Forced Fumbles: 24

      Fumbles Recovered: 12

   2016: 1

      Fumbles Recovered: 1

Interceptions: 22

      Returning for 2016: 13

      2016: 1

Sacks: 37 (-254 yds)

      Returning for 2016: 20.5 (-129 yds)

      2016: 3 (-20 yds)

TFL: 94 (-375 yds)

      Returning for 2016: 37 (-167 yds)

      2016: 9 (-33 yds)

QBH: 9

      Returning for 2016: 2

      2016: 0

PBU: 66

      Returning for 2016: 44

      2016: 2

INTs: 22 (338 yds, 3 TD)

      Returning for 2016: 13 (201 yds, 2 TD)

      2016: 1 INT (0 yds)

TDs allowed: 33

      Rushing: 11

      Passing: 22

   2016: 0

      Rushing: 0

      Passing: 0

First Downs Allowed: 253

      Rushing: 82

      Passing: 148

      Penalty: 23

   2016: 7

      Rushing: 4

      Passing: 3

      Penalty: 0

Third Down Conversion: 76/193 (39.4%)

      2016: 2/12 (16.7%)

Fourth Down Conversion: 12/22 (54.5%)

      2016: 0/0 (N/A)

Red Zone Efficiency: 38/46 (82.6%)

      2016: 0/0 (N/A)

Red Zone TDs: 26/46 (56.5%)

      2016: 0/0 (N/A)

PAT Attempts: 33/33 (100%)

      2016: 0/0 (N/A)

Key Defensive Players:

Returning from 2015 Season

FS Marcus Williams: 63 tackles, 1 TFL, 5 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR; NB Justin Thomas: 42 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 INT, 4 PBU, 7 QBH; DE Kylie Fitts: 40 tackles, 7 TFL, 6 sacks, 10 PBU, 1 QBH, 3 FF, 1 BK; CB Reggie Porter: 35 tackles, 7 PBU; Domonique Hatfield: 28 tackles, .5 TFL, 3 INT, 2 PBU, 5 QBH; Lowell Lotulelei: 26 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU; Filipo Mokofisi: 21 tackles, 2 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 PBU

vs Southern Utah

LB Cody Barton: 11 tackles, 1 TFL; LB Suni Tauteoli: 7 tackles; Kyle Fitts: 4 tackles, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks; Brian Allen: 4 tackles; Marcus Williams: 4 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR; Filipo Mokofisi: 4 tackles, 1 TFL; Justin Thomas: 3 tackles; Hunter Dimick: 3 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, ; Pasoni Tasini: 3 tackles, 1 TFL, .5 sacks, 1 PBU

Special Teams:

Utah had the best special teams unit in the country in 2015 and are led by kicker Andy Phillips this year. They lose punter Tom Hackett, but he’s replaced by fellow Aussie Punter Mitch Wishnosky who looked like Hackett on steroids in week one. The team will replace their primary return man, Britain Covey with Boobie Hobbs, Terrell Burgess, and Julian Blackmon. Special teams will be a key in this game for the Utes.



Andy Phillips: 47/47 PAT, 23/27 FG, 1-29 yds: 3/3, 30-39: 12/12, 40+: 8/12, lg 53


Andy Phillips: 2/2 PAT, 1/2 FG, 1-29 yds: 1/1, 30-39: 0/1, lg 26



Andy Phillips: 81 KO, 4905 yds, 60.6 avg, 20 TB, 2 OOB


Hayes Hicken: 5 KO, 324 yds, 64.8 avg, 3 TB



Mitch Wishnowsky: 6 punts, 333 yards, 55.5 avg, 66 lg, 2 TB, 2 in20, 5 50+ yds

Kick Returns:


Boobie Hobbs: 2 returns for 34 yds, 17 avg, 17 lg



Punt Returns:


Boobie Hobbs: 9 returns for 79 yds, 8.8 avg, 1 TD, 69 lg


Boobie Hobbs: 5 returns for 55 yds, 11 avg, 35 lg

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