Utah kicks off a new season against Weber State on Thursday in Salt Lake City with all the pieces in place to make a serious run at a third Pac-12 South title in four years.
The No. 24 Utes won back-to-back divisional titles in 2018 and 2019. Now they return 19 starters from a team that won its final three games last season and quietly emerged as one of the top defensive teams in the Pac-12 again.
Deciding on a quarterback was one of the biggest question marks heading into the season. Utah turned to Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer to take the reins on offense. Brewer threw for 9,700 yards and 65 touchdowns over four seasons with the Bears. He edged out Cameron Rising for the top spot after a heated battle that lasted through the final week of fall camp.
Rising won the starting job a year ago and then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener against USC.
“They’re both really good players,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We’ve got a good situation in that regard. We’re picking from two guys that are both very high-quality quarterbacks.”
Utah is still undecided with finding Ty Jordan’s replacement in the backfield. Jordan, the 2020 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, died tragically on Christmas night in December. Four players — Micah Bernard, Tavion Thomas, Oklahoma transfer TJ Pledger and LSU transfer Chris Curry — are listed as co-starters at running back on Utah’s depth chart.
Only Bernard played for the Utes prior to this season, totaling 76 yards on 15 carries a year ago.
Utah does have considerable experience along the line of scrimmage. All five starters return on the offensive line. Top wideouts Brant Kuithe and Britain Covey headline the receiving corps again this season. Either Kuithe or Covey has led Utah in receptions or receiving yards each of the previous three seasons.
“I feel like we’re going to have a very explosive offense,” Brewer said. “I feel like we’re not just going to be a defensive team. We’re going to be a complete football team.”
Weber State will offer a nice opening test for the Utes. The Wildcats were Big Sky Conference champions in the spring and are the preseason pick to win the league again this fall. They have made the FCS playoffs each of the last five seasons.
Running back Josh Davis is a catalyst to the Wildcats’ continued success. Davis, a two-time FCS All-American, has tallied 2,884 career rushing yards and ranks fourth all-time in that category at Weber State. He finished second in the Big Sky in the spring with 77.2 rushing yards per game. Davis piled up 386 yards on 65 carries over five games.
Bronson Barron, a freshman, started five games at quarterback in the spring and quietly showed some potential to be a star. He threw for 1,071 yards and seven touchdowns for Weber State in that stretch.
The Wildcats feel good about having a chance to build some momentum with actual spring games versus the usual scrimmages.
“That was an opportunity to at least get more reps, get more guys involved, those kinds of things,” Wildcats coach Jay Hill said. “I think that was a positive.”
Utah is 5-0 versus Weber State all-time. The Utes beat the Wildcats 41-10 when the teams last met in 2018.
–Field Level Media
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