Utah football is at a critical juncture as the Utes try to break through into the upper echelons of the Pac-12. Make no mistake, if the Utes do break into the upper echelon of the Pac-12, they will be in the upper echelon of college football.
With the Utes facing arguably the toughest schedule in school history, everyone will have to do their part to contribute to team success, and of course, with team success come individual accolades. Fans expect their favorites to do well, but there are a number of players in the program with whom fans may not be familiar that are ready for a huge 2013.
This list breaks down 10 Utah football players poised to have a breakout season.
Dan Sorensen is the editor in chief of UteZone.com and a Deseret News contributor. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and Basketball Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fehoko started six games as a sophomore last season, recording 30 tackles in the process. The Utah staff believes he has made major strides as a player and a leader since season’s end. Although he’s currently listed as a co-starter at middle linebacker with L.T. Filiaga, Fehoko is expected to win one of the three starting linebacker spots this fall.
Thomas came to Utah as a heralded four-star recruit out of Texas. After a redshirt season, Thomas looks poised to play a significant role in the two deep at corner. Thomas played well in spring camp and is listed as a starter heading into fall camp. With another strong performance, he’ll keep that job in the season opener.
Although Palepoi didn’t play significant reps until the end of last season, he was arguably the most consistent defensive lineman for the Utes during the last three games. He’ll need to anchor the line now that Star Lotulelei is gone, and if Palepoi can play to the potential his coaches see in him, don’t be surprised if he’s playing on Sundays after his breakout senior season.
Big things are already expected from receivers Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott. However, Utah’s most explosive receiver in spring camp was redshirt freshman Delshawn McClellon. The Utah coaches are high on McClellon’s potential and will look for ways to get him the football with space so he can show his explosiveness.
In his two years on the Utah defense, Orchard has shown that he has the ability to make big plays, as evidenced by his 8.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries last season. Orchard will be expected to do more this season as the Utes try to reload their defense.
After redshirting last season due to injury, Salt is ready to make an impact on the Ute offensive line this year. Salt was a another four-star recruit coming out of the JUCO ranks before enrolling at Utah. He played well this spring and is expected to play a major role on this year’s offensive line.
The Utah defense will need its defensive ends to step up in a big way, and Trevor Reilly is the best playmaker of the bunch. After a standout sophomore season, Reilly was hampered by an ACL injury throughout much of last year, which limited his effectiveness. Reilly’s big play ability is undeniable, but he’ll need to stay healthy to fully realize his potential.
As a sophomore, Scott hauled in 360 receiving yards and three touchdowns, but the Utes will need much more production out of him this season. Scott’s winning personality has already made him a favorite among Ute fans, but a big season could make him a legend.
Poutasi showed tremendous potential as a true freshman, earning a starting spot at right tackle — a rare feat for a lineman in a BCS conference. Poutasi has moved to the left side this season and is expected to be the anchor of a much improved offensive line and contend for All-Conference honors. If Poutasi has the kind of season Utah coaches think he’s capable of, look for Poutasi to be a household name among college football fans following the season.
All eyes this season will be on sophomore Travis Wilson. He played well at times as a true freshman, but will need to show significant growth as a quarterback if the Utah offense is to have any hope for improvement. Given Dennis Erickson’s pedigree of turning quarterbacks into winners at every major stop he’s made, Ute fans will be looking for Wilson to make that leap.
Now that you've seen the 10 Utah players on the verge of making their mark in 2013, time to check out the competition.
BYU is embarking upon it's third independent campaign, and its partnership with ESPN finally appears to be paying off. Texas, Virginia, Boise State, Utah State, Utah, Wisconsin and Notre Dame highlight what is billed to be a very exciting season.
Taysom Hill, Kyle Van Noy, Cody Hoffman and co. are about to embark once again on the journey, but a number of players in Provo will leave their mark on the 2013 season as well.
Who are the 10 players primed for a breakout season for the Cougars?
See who made the list.