by Mitch Brunner
The University of Utah football team will hold their annual Red vs. White spring game on April 17, 2021 at Rice Eccles Stadium at 12 PM Mountain Time. In accordance with Pac-12, and state officials, fan attendance will be capped at 6,500 fans. This will be the first time fans will see the new construction of the Ken Garff Performance Zone. The project consisted of enclosing the south end of the stadium, adding premium seating, building a new home and visiting team locker rooms, plus much more.
Kyle Whittingham returns for his 17th season as head coach of the Utes. Whittingham has an overall record of 134-66. Since joining the Pac-12, he has gone 45-41 in league play. He has had great postseason success with an 11-3 record in bowl games. He is also dominating in-state opponents as he is 11-3 against BYU and 7-1 versus Utah State.
At quarterback, Cam Rising has not participated in spring practice because he is coming off of shoulder surgery. He is expected to be ready to practice in August. The quarterback room just got a bit more crowded with the addition of Charlie Brewer. The Baylor transfer is getting the first team reps in spring practice. It was announced in December that Brewer would be transferring to Utah. Brewer was outstanding in his junior year with the Bears. However, he took a step backwards when head coach Matt Ruhl left the program for the NFL.
Standing at 6’5” and weighing 315 pounds is 2020 1st team All-Pac 12 veteran Nick Ford. Ford is returning to the offensive line where he has started in all five offensive line positions at some point in his career.
Joining him will be 2020 2nd team All Pac-12 guard, Sataoa Laumea, who started in every game last year. Simi Moala also returns as a key contributor to the talented offensive line who is a towering 6’7” 312-pound tackle.
As a primary blocking tight end, Cole Fotheringham returns. He has started in all 19 games in the last two years. Also, at the tight end position is two-time All Pac-12 Second Team Brant Kuithe who had 236 receiving yards last year. Another key pass catcher will be Britain Covey. He had three receiving touchdowns last season and was a 2018 and 2020 All-Conference selection. Covey also returns kickoffs and punts, including one for a touchdown last year.
With heavy hearts after the passing of Ty Jordan, there is a three-way battle for rushing attempts. The very talented pool has Micah Bernard returning after getting 76 rushes last year. Joining him are two transfers in former Oklahoma Sooner T.J. Pledger and LSU Tiger Chris Curry.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Utes will return 10 starters. Leading the way is a 2020 Butkus award finalist, and first team Pac-12 linebacker Devin Lloyd. In five games last year, Lloyd had 33 solo tackles, 15 assisted tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, two sacks, and one forced fumble. Lloyd’s counterpart is All-Conference linebacker Nephi Sewell. On top of his ability to bring down ball carriers, Sewell is a ball-hawking and turnover-causing machine. In 5 five games last year, he had two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
The defensive ends are both occupied by returning seniors Mike Tafua (2020 Second Team All-Conference), and Maxs Tupai who has appeared in 36 career games (13 starts). The tackles are Hauati Pututau (who has 42 career games played), and Viane Moala (who has seen action in 19 games between 2019-2020).
The secondary also has experience returning. 2020 All-Conference Honorable Mention Jatravis Broughton returns at corner. Broughton led the team in pass breakups along with Clark Phillips who started in all five games last year.
Special teams returns 2020 First Team All-Conference kicker Jadon Redding who connected on all eight field goal attempts and was perfect on extra points last season. His longest field goal was 44 yards.
As a team Utah finished the shortened season 3-2 after opening up with two losses to USC and Washington. They won their final three games over Oregon State, Colorado, and Washington State. Regular season action begins on Thursday, September 2, 2021. The Utes will play against Weber State in their home opener on that day.
Featured image courtesy Utah Athletics