SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Utah Utes

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Urban Meyer (1st year)
2002 record: 5-6
Mountain West finish: T-5th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 163.9 ypg
(5th in Mountain West, 47th in nation)
Pass: 208.3 ypg (4th, 64th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 104.8 ypg (1st, 12th)
Pass: 227.3 ypg (5th, 74th)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
WR  86  Steven Savoy  Fr. 
WR  82  Paris Warren  Jr. 
WR  15  Larry Miles  Sr. 
LT  76  Thomas Herrion  Sr. 
LG   68   Chris Kemoeatu   Jr.  
57  Max Petersen  Jr. 
RG  77  Siuaki Livai  So. 
RT   62   Sean Souza   Sr.  
TE   89   Matt Hansen   Sr.  
QB   3   Brett Elliott   Jr.  
TB   5   Brandon Warfield   Sr.  
Defense (5)
DE   44   Josh Savage   Sr.  
NG  94  Steve Fifita  So. 
DT  90  Sione Pouha  Jr. 
DE   86   Jason Kaufusi   Sr.  
SLB  93  Corey Dodds  Jr. 
MLB   6   Ray Holdcraft   Sr.  
ROV  49  Spencer Toone  So. 
CB  22  Bo Nagahi  Jr. 
CB   17   Arnold Parker   Sr.  
FS  25  Morgan Scalley  Jr. 
SS   35   Dave Revill   Sr.  
Special Teams
23  Ford Hall  Jr. 
19  Matt Kovacevich  Jr. 
KR  22  Bo Nagahi  Jr. 
PR  25  Morgan Scalley  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 28  Utah State 
Sept. 6  at Texas A&M 
Sept. 11  California 
Sept. 27  at Colorado State 
Oct. 3  Oregon 
Oct. 11  San Diego State 
Oct. 18  at UNLV 
Oct. 25  New Mexico 
Nov. 1  at Air Force 
Nov. 15  Wyoming 
Nov. 22  at BYU 
This is not like Bowling Green. By Urban Meyer's account, that program was in "shambles" when he took over in the winter of 2001.

The Utah team Meyer inherited in December is far more advanced. No major rebuilding is necessary, but that also means expectations are greater. At Bowling Green, "They wanted to know if we could win a couple of games," Meyer says. At Utah, the standard is a Mountain West Conference championship.

Ron McBride elevated Utah's program in his 13 seasons, yet could not quite deliver a product to match the expectations he created with outstanding recruiting. The Utes finished 5-6 in 2002, but a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season ultimately cost McBride his job.

So after going 17-6 in two seasons at Bowling Green, Meyer is being asked to finish McBride's foundation work.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Brett Elliott took over Utah's quarterback position in the middle of last season, going 3-3 as a starter. He completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,529 yards and 10 touchdowns. All that earned him was a chance to compete for the job again with senior Lance Rice and sophomore Alex Smith. Meyer is leaving the starting position open until after the start of practice in August.

Based on the way he finished last season, running back Brandon Warfield ordinarily would be a preseason all-conference choice. He rushed for 194 yards in the finale against BYU. Yet with Marty Johnson returning from a knee injury, Warfield is not likely to have the same opportunities. Johnson rushed for 405 yards in Utah's first two games and is a punishing runner who gains many of his yards after contact.

Receiver is an area of concern, because the Utes lost their top three pass-catchers and need three or four receivers in their standard alignment. The top returnee is junior Travis LaTendresse, who caught 21 passes for 195 yards. As those numbers indicate, he's dependable for short routes. Paris Warren, a junior who transferred from Oregon, and redshirt freshman Steven Savoy have more speed and will be counted on to stretch defenses.

The Utes lost Outland Trophy finalist Jordan Gross, yet they have the makings of a strong line. Thomas Herrion became a starter for the last three games of 2002, and now he moves into Gross' vacancy at left tackle. Sean Souza started the first eight games at right tackle before Herrion took over. Guard Chris Kemoeatu missed most of spring drills with a kidney infection, but is pegged as Utah's next outstanding lineman.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Utah led the conference in total defense (332.1) and scoring defense (20.5) and should have another dominating group. That's particularly true up front, where end Jason Kaufusi already ranks in the school's top five for career tackles for a loss (38.5) and sacks (19). The other end, Josh Savage, is also big and athletic.

Utah had planned to redshirt Ray Holdcraft in his first season after transferring from junior college but summoned him after four games and plugged him in at middle linebacker. Corey Dodds is unproven at stud linebacker, but defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham calls him "physically solid." Whittingham is eager to watch the development of sophomore rover Spencer Toone.

Cornerback is an area of concern, after Arnold Parker struggled in his transition from safety last season. Strong safety Dave Revill missed most of the spring with a back injury, but he's a proven force.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Placekicking problems cost McBride's teams several close games in recent years, and Meyer will have to hope for more consistency from sophomore Bryan Borreson or junior Ford Hall.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

The start of the season means everything to the Utes, as they try to capitalize both on last season's strong finish and on the new energy generated by Meyer and his staff. The defense will be dependable, so the variable is how well the chosen quarterback and his young receivers adapt to the new offensive scheme. Utah's challenge is to win its share of close games, which McBride's teams didn't do.

Click here for complete index of 2003 team previews

To purchase the 2003 College Football Preview from Athlon Sports, click here.

 


 
CNNSI