College Football: Naming All-Utah Team with Every NCAA Div. I Utah School
Photo Courtesy of BYU.edu
College football is well represented in the state of Utah, with five schools in the state competing in Div. I.
Three of those schools compete at the FBS level—BYU in Provo, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and Utah State in Logan.
The other two compete at the FCS level—Southern Utah University (SUU) in Cedar City and Weber State in Ogden.
There are plenty of talented players at these five schools. To prove it, I have compiled an all-Utah team, which is basically an all-conference team, except all the athletes play for one of the five Utah schools.
The list includes 12 defensive players, because some schools run the 3-4 while others run the 4-3, so there are both four defensive linemen and four linebackers.
The selections are based on statistics, honors and overall importance to the players' respective teams, but they are still somewhat subjective. Honestly, aren't all All-conference teams somewhat subjective?
There will also be individual awards included, such as Offensive Player of the Year, etc.
Without further ado, let's reveal the 2011 All-Utah NCAA Div. I Football team.
Quarterback: Mike Hoke (Weber State)
Photo Courtesy of Weber State Athletics
It may be a bit of a surprise to see a player from one of the FCS schools in this spot, but 2011 was a strange year for quarterbacks playing for Utah schools.
All three FBS teams were hit with injuries at the QB position, so none of their quarterbacks were able to put together a full season of work.
Hoke did miss one game for the Wildcats but was the undisputed starter in every other game.
Hoke also turned in a stellar performance for Weber State this season. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 2,080 yards and 19 touchdowns with only four interceptions. That gave him a respectable passer rating of 150.2.
Besides his passing ability, Hoke was also a real threat in the run game. He compiled 130 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground.
Riley Nelson (BYU)
Running Backs: Robert Turbin (Utah State) and John White IV (Utah)
Courtesy of Salt Lake Tribune
Robert Turbin (Utah State)
Robert Turbin was the single most important player on a Utah State team that became bowl-eligible for the first time since 1997.
He rushed 229 times for 1,416 yards and 19 touchdowns. Despite playing against opposing defenses geared specifically towards stopping him, he still managed over six yards per carry.
Turbin also played a role in the passing game. He had 16 receptions for 164 yards and four touchdowns.
Currently, Turbin is deciding whether to declare for the NFL draft or return to Utah State for his senior year. That fact speaks volumes about how talented he is.
After all, players from Utah State rarely get any sort of attention in the draft, so any Aggie being noticed by NFL scouts in his junior season is pretty impressive.
John White IV (Utah)
John White IV is pretty much the entire Utah offense. After Jordan Wynn got hurt, the Utes' passing game became almost non-existent.
With their season in peril, the Utes decided to put the offensive burden on White's shoulders and see how far he could carry them.
As it turns out, depending on John White IV to carry the offense is a pretty sound strategy.
White carried 290 times for 1,404 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also had two receiving touchdowns.
Perhaps most impressive was the fact he rushed for over 100 yards in four of the Utes' last six games, despite the fact all those games were against Pac-12 teams and all focused their defensive efforts on stopping White.
The Pac-12 opponents knew Utah was just going to hand the ball off to White as often as possible, and yet he still couldn't be contained.
JJ DiLuigi (BYU), C.J. Tuckett (Weber State), Austin Minefee (SUU)
Wide Receivers: Cody Hoffman (BYU) and Shaydon Kehano (Weber State)
Photo Courtesy of BYU.edu
Cody Hoffman (BYU)
Hoffman is a special player. It isn't often BYU gets prototypical NFL receivers, ones who have size, speed and strength.
Right now, the Cougars have two of those receivers with Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo.
Hoffman is currently the better of the two right now, because he possesses the rare ability of being able to take over a game, also known as "beast mode."
Hoffman's stats are respectable enough, with 53 receptions for 821 yards and seven touchdowns. However, his real strength lies in his ability to turn on the aforementioned "beast mode."
Just ask Oregon State, which got absolutely demolished by Hoffman. BYU QB Riley Nelson was able to put the ball anywhere in Hoffman's vicinity, and he found a way to catch it, including several circus catches.
Hoffman did that in multiple games this season.
Shaydon Kehano (Weber State)
Kehano was the go-to target for the Wildcats this year, and he did his job quite well. His 883 receiving yards accounted for over a third of Weber State's total receiving yards.
Kehano led the Wildcats in receptions as well, with 43. He also had the most touchdown grabs of anyone on the team with eight.
Leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns isn't too shabby for someone who's only 5'11" and weighs 180 pounds.
In fact, Kehano leads the entire state of Utah in receiving yards and touchdowns.
Devonte Christopher (Utah), Ross Apo (BYU), Jared Ursua (SUU)
Tight End: Marcus Matthews (BYU)
Photo Courtesy of Daily Herald
Honestly, 2011 was not a good year for tight ends playing for Utah schools. Nobody had a very solid year.
Matthews was the best of a mediocre group. He had 25 grabs for 265 yards and one touchdown.
He also had the game-winning touchdown grab with 11 seconds left against Utah State that prevented an embarrassing home loss to the Aggies.
Matthews showed potential and a knack for getting open and would be a more solid choice here if not for the many dropped passes that plagued him.
Dallin Rogers (Utah)
Offensive Line: Matt Reynolds (BYU) Leads Solid Group
Matt Reynolds (BYU)
Reynolds was a preseason All-American. Even though he got passed up on the end-of-season All-American lists, that had more to do with big conference bias than lack of performance.
Reynolds is a projected first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
Tony Bergstrom (Utah)
The senior from Salt Lake City helped to open holes for John White IV all year, and his opponents took notice. The Pac-12 voted him onto the All-Pac-12 first team.
Terence Brown (BYU)
Brown made the Rimington Award watch list, given to the nation's top center.
He backed up that hype with a solid season in which the BYU QBs were fairly well protected and the running game had adequate lanes to run through.
John Cullen (Utah)
Cullen was a JuCo transfer who was rated the top JuCo offensive line prospect of 2009.
He certainly lived up to that rating while at Utah. This season, he made the All-Pac-12 second team.
Braden Hansen (BYU)
Hansen was named to the Outland Trophy watch list, given to the best interior lineman in the country. He also was named to Phil Steele's midseason All-Independents team.
Braden Brown (BYU), Houston Reynolds (BYU), Tyler Larsen (Utah State), Philip Gapelu (Utah State)
Defensive Line: Star Lotulelei (Utah) Leads Aggressive Bunch
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Star Lotulelei (Utah)
This JuCo transfer was an absolute beast on the field for the Utes.
Despite playing nose tackle, a position that seldom racks up meaningful stats, Lotulelei managed 38 tackles, nine of which were for loss. Opposing offensive lines had to account for him on every play, which allowed his teammates to make big plays in the backfield.
He also made it very difficult for opposing offenses to run up the middle.
He was rewarded for his efforts with a first team All-Pac-12 selection.
Tyler Osborne (SUU)
Speaking of absolute beasts, Osborne was a force on the Thunderbird defensive line.
From his defensive end position, he racked up 61 tackles. 14.5 of those were for loss, and he also managed 10.5 sacks.
The impressive stats don't end there, as Osborne forced five fumbles, recovered three more and broke up three passes. It is difficult to find a more well-rounded defensive end than Osborne.
Derrick Shelby (Utah)
With his teammate, Lotulelei, drawing extra attention from opposing offensive lines, Shelby had a field day in pretty much every game from his defensive end spot.
Shelby racked up 45 tackles, which included nine for loss and five sacks. He also broke up eight passes.
Trevor Pletcher (Weber State)
Pletcher had 36 tackles, among which 10 were for loss and 6.5 sacks.
He also forced two fumbles and blocked two kicks. That all paints a picture of one very talented defensive lineman.
Eathyn Manumaleuna (BYU), Hebron Fangupo (BYU), Joe Kruger (Utah), Tevita Finau (Utah)
Linebackers: Kyle Van Noy (BYU) and Brian Blechen (Utah) Headline Strong Group
Photo Courtesy of BYU.edu
Kyle Van Noy (BYU)
Van Noy may only have 58 tackles, but that's because opposing offenses try to keep the ball away from his side of the field as much as possible. If the ball goes anywhere near Van Noy, the probability is quite high that he will come up with a huge play.
Van Noy has 10 tackles for loss, five sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and three passes defensed. He also blocked a kick.
In the opener against Ole Miss, he forced a fumble and then picked it up and ran it in for the game-winning touchdown.
Van Noy is a complete player and one of the top linebackers in the country.
Brian Blechen (Utah)
Blechen is Utah's version of Van Noy. He does a little bit of everything for the Utes.
After earning Freshman All-American honors as a defensive back last year, Blechen moved to linebacker this year and his versatility has been an incredible asset for Utah.
Blechen finished with 72 tackles, seven of which were for loss and two of which were sacks. He also broke up five passes, intercepted three more and forced three more. Like Van Noy, he also blocked a kick.
Blechen's presence on the field creates nightmares for opposing offensive coordinators.
Anthony Morales (Weber State)
Any time a player can rack up over 100 tackles, it's pretty impressive. When considering 10 of those were for loss and two were sacks, it becomes even more impressive.
Morales also had an interception, forced a fumble and broke up two passes.
Bobby Wagner (Utah State)
As far as sheer stats go, no player in the state can match what Wagner registered.
The tireless senior racked up 140 tackles, 10 of which were for loss and four of which were sacks. He also had two interceptions and recovered a fumble.
The Aggies are going to miss that type of production next season.
Brandon Ogletree (BYU), Chaz Walker (Utah), Matt Martinez (Utah), Nick Webb (Weber State), Chad Hansen (SUU)
Defensive Backs: Freshman Eric Rowe (Utah) Leads Secondary
Photo Courtesy of The Columbian
Eric Rowe (Utah)
The freshman won the starting safety spot in training camp, and now it's easy to see why.
Rowe has 66 tackles on the season, including 1.5 for loss and one sack. He also broke up 10 passes, had three interceptions and recovered a fumble.
Not too bad for a freshman.
Daniel Sorenson (BYU)
The sophomore plays safety in a manner of former Cougar Andrew Rich, who graduated last year. To be compared to Andrew Rich is a great compliment for any safety, as he was well known for being all over the field and playing with more energy and heart than anyone.
That also describes Sorenson quite well.
Sorenson registered 52 tackles, two of which were for loss. He added three interceptions, including an acrobatic, juggling pick against Texas on national television.
He also broke up five passes and recovered a fumble.
Nevin Lawson (Utah State)
Lawson came up big for the Aggies, forming one half of a stellar cornerback duo. He had 65 tackles, which is insane for a CB.
He also broke up 10 passes, had an interception, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble as well.
Jumanne Robertson (Utah State)
Robertson is the other half of the spectacular Aggie cornerback duo. He registered 44 tackles, which is pretty good for a CB. He also led the team in passes defensed with 11.
Conroy Black (Utah), Preston Hadley (BYU), Dion Turner (SUU), Erron Vonner (SUU), Tony Epperson (Weber State), Willie Okwuonu (Weber State), McKade Brady (Utah State)
Special Teams: Kicker Colton Cook (SUU) Leads Stellar Unit
Photo Courtesy of Utah Shock
Kicker: Colton Cook (SUU)
Cook took an unconventional path to becoming SUU's starting kicker. He was a soccer star in high school but never played football.
After high school, he went on his mission. He spent one year at Salt lake Community College but still didn't play any football.
He then spent time as the kicker for the Utah Shock, a semipro team based in Salt Lake City.
While with the Shock, Cook was offered a scholarship at SUU and accepted. Smart move for the Thunderbirds.
Cook has gone 14-19 on field goal attempts with a long of 45. Three of his five misses were attempts of over 50 yards.
He also handled kickoffs for SUU, totaling nine touchbacks.
Coleman Petersen (Utah)
Punter: Tyler Bennett (Utah State)
Bennett was called upon often by the Aggies, punting 53 times. He averaged 44.2 yards per punt, while pinning 19 of those punts inside the opponents' 20-yard-line.
He also had a long of 67 yards.
Sean Sellwood (Utah), Tate Lewis (SUU)
Kick/Punt Returner: Cody Hoffman (BYU)
Hoffman returned a kickoff for a touchdown against UCF this season, giving BYU its first special teams touchdown since 1997.
He was a threat to take it to the house every time opposing teams kicked it to him, averaging over 25 yards per return.
Austin Minefee (SUU), JD Falslev (BYU)
Individual Awards Led by Robert Turbin (Utah State) and Kyle Van Noy (BYU)
Photo Courtest of Salt Lake Tribune
Offensive Player of the Year: Robert Turbin, RB (Utah State)
No offensive player in the state did more for the success of his team than Utah State's Robert Turbin.
It has been a long time since the Aggies have had a player of Turbin's caliber. Honestly, Turbin could play for almost any team in the country.
The Aggies, and football fans in the state of Utah in general, should be thankful he plays for Utah State.
John White IV (Utah)
Defensive Player of the Year: Kyle Van Noy, LB (BYU)
Kyle Van Noy is one of the best linebackers the state of Utah has seen in a long time. Few players affect opponents' offensive game plans like Van Noy, who can blow up the best-laid plans on any given play.
He is a complete player who excels in every single aspect of his position.
Brian Blechen (Utah), Star Lotulelei (Utah)
Co-Freshmen of the Year: Eric Rowe, DB (Utah) and Ross Apo, WR (BYU)
Rowe was a whirlwind of energy in the Utes' secondary. Few freshmen have as much of a motor as Rowe, who played like a determined veteran this season.
Apo was a huge receiving threat for the Cougars, hauling in 34 passes for 453 yards and nine touchdowns. Those nine touchdowns made him the team leader in touchdown receptions, beating out spectacular sophomore receiver Cody Hoffman.
Coach of the Year: Gary Andersen (Utah State)
The Utah State Aggies have been a pitiful program for the last 15 years. Andersen changed that culture of losing into one of winning, leading the Aggies to a 7-5 record and their first bowl invite since 1997.
The Aggies also had four heart-breaking, last-second losses early in the season, all games they should have won. Instead of letting that destroy his team's season, Andersen rallied his players and got them to overcome those problems that had prevented them from closing out wins.
It can not be emphasized enough how much Andersen has done for Utah State football.