View from the Booth: Utah Utes football: U. looking good as season opens
"Don't lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations."— Ralph Marston
So here we are again, at long last. It's the beginning of the season that seems like it will never arrive, yet is always over far too quickly. Of course, I'm talking about football season — and around here more specifically, the college football season.
On Thursday night, four of the five programs in the state will open their 2012 campaigns: the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium; the Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium; and the Aggies and T-birds at Romney Stadium in Logan.
I will be at Rice-Eccles with 46,000 of my closest friends all wearing red and cheering for the home team. I have to say I'm more anxious than usual for this chapter of Utah football to unfold. Last season was filled with the excitement and newness of a new conference and all that comes with it. Every week provided a new challenge and opponent and a chance for the "new kids" to prove they belonged.
But the eagerness and expectations heading into this season, at least for me and maybe you too, has more to do with "real" and "on field" expectations. While last year Utah may have been just happy to have been invited to the party, now it feels like the Utes have something to truly prove. The question is do they have the personnel to prove it?
I think the simple answer to that question is YES, the players are there for the Utes to live up to both fan and media expectations. Once again Kyle Whittingham and Kalani Sitake have put together one of the best defensive units in the western United States, and certainly one of the top squads in the Pac-12.
The heart and soul of Sitake's defense is the defensive line, which is anchored by one of the nation's best in Star Lotulelei. But what sets this team apart from others that Whittingham has assembled over the years is the depth and athleticism. On offense Utah has never been deeper and more talented at wide receiver and tight end, plus they feature one of college football's most talented running backs in John White.
There are really just three areas of question or concern as the second season of Pac-12 football begins for Utah.
Jordan Wynn's durability: He's bigger and stronger than he's ever been in his life. But he's also never completed an entire season injury-free as a Ute. There's no question that Wynn is the best candidate to lead Utah this season. The only question is can he avoid the injury bug. If he can, it could turn out to be a big season for Utah.
Offensive Line Play: The five guys who will start Thursday night for Utah have only had about a week of practice time together this fall. This is the one area where everyone MUST be on the same page on every play. Miles Mason, Jeremiah Tofaeono, Tevita Stevens, Sam Brenner and Percey Taumoelau will be the guys most responsible for Jordan Wynn's durability this season.
The Kicking Game: Coleman Petersen didn't win the placekicking job outright until the last week of fall camp. While he was solid throughout most of last season, he has struggled with his confidence since the final game of the regular season against Colorado.
So here we sit on the eve of yet another college football season, waiting to see how the expected storylines play out and what new ones arise. I can't wait for the ball to be kicked and the season to begin.
The only certainty for this season and every season is that the end will come far too quickly. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and insights with you weekly here in the Deseret News, and on ESPN 700 Radio on game days with my partners Frank Dolce and Bo Nagahi.
Bill Riley is the co-host of the Bill and Hans Show weekdays from 2-6 p.m on ESPN 700 AM. You can follow Bill on Twitter @espn700bill
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