USC Football Schedule Preview 2015: Scouting Utah


USC football will face off with the Utah Utes, who stunned the Trojans in the final moments of last year’s contest, at the Coliseum in week eight of the college football season.

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Despite finishing 9-4 and ranked No. 21 in the nation, Utah sat fifth in the Pac-12 south last season.

Kyle Whittingham will hope to repeat such a successful record while rising in the rankings, but there are concerns as the Utes replaced both coordinators this offseason, along with some major talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Here’s an early look at USC’s seventh opponent of the year:


New co-offensive coordinators Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding have seven returning starters to work with on offense, including senior quarterback Travis Wilson, whose football career seemed in jeopardy because of injury last season.

Dec 20, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah Utes running back Devontae Booker (23) rushes the ball against the Colorado State Rams during the second half of the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium. Utah won 45-10. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Kendal Thompson threatened Wilson’s starting job last year before injuring his knee and could once more work his way to the top once his rehab is finished. Still, the best bet is that Wilson will once again take the helm for the Utes.

Regardless of the situation at quarterback, running back will remain the focus with dark-horse Heisman candidate Devontae Booker running the show. Booker was All-Pac-12 first team in 2014 and averaged 116.3 yards per game.

Four of the five starters on Utah’s offensive line will be back, but three-year starter and second-team All-Pac-12 selection at left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi has left the building. That will create some shuffling on the line as J.J Dielman swaps from right to left after a strong 2014 campaign.

Receiver experienced the most turnover this offseason. With Kaelin Clay, Dres Anderson and tight end Westlee Tonga gone, Utah must find a way to replace three of their top four receivers from last year.

Senior Kenneth Scott is a shoo-in to be the top target in 2015. He was the Utes’ second leading receiver with 501 yards and four touchdowns in 2014.

Sophomore Jameson Field and junior Delshawn McClellon were listed as the other two starters on Utah’s pre-fall depth chart, but the two claim eight catches for 115 yards and a single touchdown combined in their careers.


The pride of Utah’s days in the Pac-12 has been the stout defense which never seems to fade despite losing top talent.

This year, the Utes must replace first team All-American defensive end Nate Orchard, along with Eric Rowe and Brian Blechen, four-year starters in the defensive back field.

Junior Hunter Dimick had a strong 2014 showing with ten sacks and will shoulder the brunt of the responsibility in replacing Orchard’s impact. Orchard’s direct replacement on the right side of the defensive line, however, looks like Jason Fanaika, a senior who pitched in five sacks last year at outside linebacker.

Of note, former USC commit and UCLA transfer Kylie Fitts will be eligible to boost the Utah line this year.

At cornerback, Rowe’s absence will be covered by junior Reggie Porter, who looked primed for a break out year before missing the season due to injury.

Sep 20, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Utah Utes defensive back Tevin Carter (9) celebrates a defensive play in the third quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Blechen was Utah’s third top tackler in 2014 and the hole he leaves behind looks like one of the Utes biggest question marks.

Marcus Williams played in 13 games last season with varying results as a freshman. Though he is listed as the starter at free safety, he shares that distinction with Jason Thompson, who only recently made the switch from quarterback to safety.

Of course, the Utes also boast strength at strong safety, where senior Tevin Carter could be ready to make the step up to defensive star in his final season.

Utah is also boosted by the return of all three starting linebackers, Jared Norris, Gionni Paul and Jason Whittingham, who could all be in the running for conference honors this year.

Special Teams:

Utah special teams may be one of the strongest units in the country in 2015.

Tom Hackett won the Ray Guy Award as the top punter in the nation and was a consensus All-American last year. The Australian is back for his senior season and there’s no reason to suspect he won’t be on top of his game.

The Utes also boast one of the strongest kickers in the Pac-12. Junior Andy Phillips was first team All-Pac-12 as a sophomore. On top of hitting 40 of his 48 attempts last year, Phillips has successfully executed all three onside kicks he attempted.

Clay returned three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns in 2014, so his absence should be noted.

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Threat Level: Medium

Utah’s threat level drops the further away you get from Rice-Eccles Stadium, but they still possess a threat to USC and pretty much every team they face.

Is this the year they put it all together and challenge for the Pac-12 south? Maybe. Maybe not.

There is plenty of returning talent but Travis Wilson has had an up-and-down career and the Utes offense in general has not been potent enough in the past. Devontae Booker might be the answer. He could just as easily not be enough.

Defensively, there is no telling how big of an impact Nate Orchard’s departure will have until kick off in the fall.