The Utah Utes did not have the finish to the 2010 season that they were hoping for.
After a perfect 8-0 start to the season, back-to-back blowout losses to TCU and Notre Dame had the Utes fighting to stay in the top 25.
Two narrow victories over San Diego State and BYU had Utes fans confident for a strong finish for the season.
The Utes unfortunately had to face a pissed-off Boise State team out for blood.
In 2011, the Utes return 12 starters on both sides of the ball and have a lot to prove this season.
Here’s a look at the offense, grading each position from quarterback to the offensive line.
For the defense: click here
Quarterback Jordan Wynn (2,334 yards passing, 17 TDs) is an elite-level quarterback who is easily the Ute’s best offensive player. Wynn is battling the flu and is probable to play against Montana State.
Utah is lacking in depth at quarterback, but I doubt getting past Montana State will be an issue. The Utes will need Wynn healthy in 2011 if they hope to compete for the Pac-12 South championship spot.
When you’re starting a true freshman at running back, it could be pretty shaky at first.
Then again, it’s still not entirely apparent who the starting running back will be.
True freshman Harvey Langi was at one point first on the depth chart, but now it appears it’s between JUCO transfer John White and senior Tauni Vakapuna (79 yards, two TDs).
Regardless, this team has talent, just unproven talent.
I expect a “running back by committee approach” in 2011.
The Utes have several key playmakers at receiver and tight end.
It all starts with junior Devonte Christopher (660 yards, six TDs), who should have two big seasons ahead of him.
Next is returning starter Luke Matthews (289 yards, three TDs).
It then finishes with junior tight end Kendrick Moeai.
The Utes have some depth at these positions, but the talent level drops dramatically after the starting unit.
The offensive line is a solid group all around.
The Utes return three of their starting five from 2010, and they have no major talent drops across the five spots.
Center Tavita Stevens is definitely the anchor of the offensive line, and the rest of the O-line will lean on him.
The reason the line is a “B-“ instead of a “B” or “B+” is because of the issue of depth.
Both Po'u Palelei and Benji Kemoeatu are out for the season because of issues academically.
I feel that giving this offense a “B” is being more than fair.
Offensively, the Utes return seven starters but lose their two leading rushers (Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata), two of their three leading receivers (Jerome Brooks and Shaky Smithson) and their backup quarterback in Terrance Cain.
This team has talent, and it will be fun to see how they play in their new conference.