Utah football: 10 critical players on the Utes defensive two-deep

Published: Sunday, July 21 2013 3:12 p.m. MDT

Not many undergo injury problems like Jordan Wynn did.

But like the former Utah quarterback — who was limited in his career due to well-chronicled injuries — many Utes on defense had troubles staying on the field this spring. The three brightest returning stars from Utah’s defense — linebacker Brian Blechen (tendinitis) and defensive ends Trevor Reilly (knee) and Nate Orchard (back) — were sidelined for much of spring practice.

Fans shouldn’t become as concerned with the defense as they rightfully were with the former quarterback. Wynn’s shoulder separation — the fourth of his career — in the second week of last season derailed the Utes’ plans of competing for the Pac-12 South Division title.

Blechen, Reilly and Orchard will lead the defense heading into August practices — though after safety Eric Rowe, mainly fresh faces will join them in the first unit. After all, the defense sent six players to the NFL (three from the defensive line), five of whom apparently survived rookie mini-camp.

Reports of seven returning starters are misleading since as many as four started at safety, filling in for others for no more than a handful of games.

But with two linemen that coach Kyle Whittingham says are past due to start, the defense should be at least as solid as last season’s, which made Utah at least competitive despite the ineptitude of the passing game. The Utes ranked 49th nationally in scoring defense, compared to an offense that finished 75th in points per game.

Though they may not all start this fall, here are 10 Utes to carefully follow on the defensive side of the football if Utah is to be successful this year.

Rhett Wilkinson is the project manager for UtahPolicy.com and hails the true-blooded Aggies from Utah. The co-founder of Aggie BluePrint.com, he's been an intern for the Deseret News and other publications. rhett.wilkinson@usu.edu | @wilklogan

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Dnquixote
Las Vegas, NV

Some big question marks and a lot of opportunities to step up. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and remaining optimistic. On another note. I'm glad to hear 5 players were able to find spots in the NFL. That is an atmosphere and tradition players can thrive in. Last time I checked, there where 30 ex-Utes in the Pros. Most of those have to be defensive spots.?

EdGrady
Idaho Falls, ID

This defense is going to be BAD.

AZUTE1
Mesa, AZ

TC/SI apparently not yet arrived on campus, w/TC likely an academic casualty.

Duckhunter
Highland, UT

@azute

utah corners

J Smith 5'9" 189#'s
M Walker 5'9" 173#'s
J Thomas 5'9" 182#'s

Any comments on their size?

LOL!

ImaCaMan
Oceanside, CA

Re: they're tall enough to handle anything your all run-no throw QB (Nelson.2) will toss up.

VegasUte
Las Vegas, NV

Come on Rhett, do your homework. Orphey is a JC transfer. He was byU's answer for their corner spot until he decided he wanted a real future (like Jake Murphy, among others).

Go Utes!!

GoRed
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT

@ducky

Yes, they're all 5'9". Is that okay?

LOL

VegasUte
Las Vegas, NV

Hmmmm .... and byU just got a commit from a 5'8" corner.

Any comments on his size? "LOL"

Go Utes!! Love the trollers!!

Down under
Salt Lake City, UT

Different players, same results. 3-9 at best. Colorado will be their new bowl game.

Duckhunter
Highland, UT

@gored and vegasute

azute has spent the last couple of days bashing the size of BYU's new cornerback commit saying he is to small, to light, etc. He is essentially the same size as utah's corners who miraculously enough azute seems to believe are plenty tall and plenty heavy to play the position. I suppose a little context might help you out.

wwookie
Payson, UT

One of the best and most accurate reports on Utah personnel from the DN.

With blechen moving to the front seven, the big question mark really will be the secondary. The line and the linebackers will be rock solid. That would be great if we were in the SEC, but because we are in the conference of QBs and west coast offenses, the secondary needs to shine to have success.

Go utes!

Duckhunter
Highland, UT

@wwookie

How can you say "the linebackers will be rock solid"? They were not good last year and last time blechen briefly played linebacker he didn't do it very well. In fact blechen as a player hasn't improved since his good freshman year, the article even pointed it out. utah lacks talent at the linebacker position, there is basically no chance that they will be "rock solid", the best you can hope for is that they will be adequate.

Fly Fisherman
Salt Lake City, UT

I am a Utes fan, and it pains me to say it, but the lack of size and especially experience at corner back for Utah will most likely be a major concern for the upcoming season. Let's hope they work things out.

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