UTAH UTES

Three Things To Watch: #7 Utah vs. Florida

Aug 31, 2022, 9:00 AM
Money Parks - Utah Utes - USC Trojans...
Utah Utes wide receiver Money Parks (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter during a college football game between the Utah Utes and the USC Trojans on October 9, 2021, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY- Well guys, we made it. It’s officially game week for the Utes. Obviously there is a lot of hype surrounding #7 Utah as they prepare to head to SEC country to take on the Florida Gators in the Swamp. This is probably the biggest season opener for the Utes since the 2008 Michigan game and could go a long way to determining what the 2022 Utah football team can accomplish after their first Pac-12 Title and Rose Bowl appearance a year ago. Here are three things I will be watching in Gainesville as the Utes start down what could be a big 2022 season.

 

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Line Play

The SEC as a conference is known for winning at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and Florida will be no different. Luckily enough Utah plays a similar style of football that emphasizes winning at the line as well. The one knock for the Utes? They have sometimes been slow to gel as an offensive line, and last season didn’t always get the pressure they needed to off the defensive line.

On the offensive-side of the ball, line coach Jim Harding along with head coach Kyle Whittingham, and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig all acknowledged they needed to get off to a better start in 2022. All said they needed to make a quicker decision on their starting five (and keep them healthier) than they did a year before. It was stressed in spring ball and fall ball, but will it show up come game day in the Swamp?

 

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Looking at the defensive line, it’s all about getting better push and pressure on the quarterback. That’s not to say the line wasn’t good last year, but they were dealing with a lot of youth where some games they were great and other games they got pushed around. Reports are guys like Junior Tafuna and Van Fillinger have been putting overtime getting their bodies right, while tackles coach Luther Elliss discussed stressing with his guys the importance of pad level and hands all through fall camp.

Bottom line, neither group has the luxury of working bugs out against Weber State in 2022 and the expectations for where the team will go this year are much higher than in 2021. Both of Utah’s lines will need to come ready to play from the moment the whistle blows if they want to come out of Gainesville with a win.

Wide Receivers

Ludwig and Whittingham also spent a lot of spring ball and fall camp talking about how the receivers need to be more involved in order to take another step forward with the offense. With reports that quarterback Cam Rising has been making throws he wasn’t necessarily able to in 2021 and the receivers buying into the idea that they need be part of the reason Utah wins, it sounds like the Utes might be on the right track. In fairness, there has been talk about this for years with not much changing so it’s ok to feel skeptical, but it’s certainly something I will be looking for come game day.

 

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A lot has been made of Utah not having the clearest idea of what Florida will bring with a new coaching staff and new players from the year previously which is a fair point. There will be a lot of educated guesses happening on Utah’s part to prepare for the Gators. However, if Utah wants to even that playing field, there is no better way than doing some unexpected things with guys like Devaughn Vele, Makai Cope, Solomon Enis, Money Parks and Jaylen Dixon. There isn’t a ton of film on them because Utah hasn’t typically gone to them a lot in the past, but using the receivers could breakup what everyone knows they can do with the tight ends and running backs.

Linebackers

After being spoiled with the likes of Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell in 2021, the Utes will be starting over with their linebackers. That is not to say there isn’t talent in that room, because there is. However, it’s mostly very green and untested. Can the new group (I’m assuming Karene Reid and Mohamoud Diabate will most likely get the majority of the snaps due to having the most playing experience) play sound enough to not allow Florida big plays?

 

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The other question is just how much will the younger guys factor in and in what combos? The coaching staff love freshmen Lander Barton and Justin Medlock, along with redshirt freshman Ethan Calvert and I expect to see them some, but exactly how much and often will be interesting to keep tabs of.

 

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Three Things To Watch: #7 Utah vs. Florida