Looking To 2013: Defense

Looking To 2013: Defense

Comparing the 2012 and 2013 Utes on the defensive side of the ball

Defensive Tackle

Departures: Star Lotulelei, Dave Kruger, Joape Pela

Projected Depth Chart
Seni Fauonuku (So)
Niasi Leota (So)

Tenny Palepoi (Sr)
LT Tuipulotu (Sr)

Goodbye Star. We'll miss you. How do you replace an all american who could end up being the first overall pick in the NFL draft? You don't. Star's contributions and effect go beyond what his stats showed. Utah may never have a defensive tackle with his impact ever play at the school again. Seni Faonuku is the logical replacement to step in and try to take his spot. The sophomore to be was very effective during his time on the field this season, and plays with a lot of intensity. Short and stocky, the local prospect out of Bingham High has as quick a first step as anyone of his build in the country. Tenny Palepoi will probably get the nod in taking over for Dave Kruger, and that may actually end up being an upgrade. Kruger disappeared at times this season and Palepoi showed an ability to both stuff the middle and track down the quarterback. LT Tuipuloto adds some depth, but isn't a Pac 12 level player. Niasi Leota and Hunter Dimick are better suited as ends right now, but either could end up sliding over into the middle. The Utes plan on putting Junior Salt on the offensive line, but could move him back to defensive tackle should the need arise. Utah really needs a couple more DT commits in this class, with at least one of those guys coming from the JC ranks, or they'll be in trouble come next season.

Position Status: Downgrade

Defensive End

Projected Depth Chart

LEFT DEFENSIVE END
Nate Fakahafua (Jr)
Thretton Palamo (Sr)
Hunter Dimick (R-Fr)

RIGHT DEFENSIVE END
Joe Kruger (Sr)
Niasi Leota (Sr)
Sam Tevi (Fr)

Both starters are back and they will be two of the best in the conference. Joe Kruger and Nate Fakahafua improved greatly as the season went along, showing an ability to get to the quarterback that was lacking for the first half of the season. Fakahafua is a tremendous athlete and should be ready to explode this year. Niasi Leota could end up inside at the tackle spot, but is probably best suited at end where he plays the run very well. Thretton Palamo is another great athlete who is still learning the game. If it all comes together, he could be the surprise breakout player on defense. Hunter Dimick will be coming off of his redshirt year and is someone that coaches are very excited about. Incoming recruit Sam Tevi is one of the most college ready commits Utah has. If the Utes can land Joe Mathis, he'll come in and compete for a spot right away.

Position Status: Upgrade

Linebacker

Departures: Boo Anderson, Dave Fagergren

Projected Depth Chart

STUD LB
Trevor Reilly (Sr)
L.T. Filiaga (So)

MIDDLE LB
Jason Whittingham (So)
V.J. Fehoko (Jr)

ROVER LB
Brian Blechen (Sr)
Reshawn Hooker (So)

After a highly disappointing season due to injuries and poor production, the linebacker group will be better in 2012, but there really isn't going to be an influx of new players. If the current guys on the roster can make dramatic improvements, they have the talent to be in the top half of the conference at that linebacker spot. Kyle Whittingham and Kalani Sitake will get the three best players on the field, and have tons of guys to choose from. Outside of Trevor Reilly though, no one is really guaranteed a spot. Brian Blechen could, and probably will, move to linebacker in the spring and that will boost the athleticism and instincts of the group. He's much more natural at linebacker than safety. By the end of the season, Jason Whittingham looked very good, and like someone that will be an impact player for years. LT Filiaga, VJ Fehoko, Jacoby Hale, and Reshawn Hooker all started games in 2012, but none of them were good enough or healthy enough to stay on the field consistently. It was a young group that will be better next season though with another year under their belt. Throw in youngsters like Jared Norris, Travis Still, and incoming freshman Uaea Masina, who will be enrolling early, and the depth and talent is there. They just need to perform. With all of the players to choose from, expect to see a lot of different combinations throughout the spring and fall.

Position Status: Upgrade

Cornerback

Departures: Moe Lee, Reggie Topps, Ryan Lacy, Lewis Walker

Projected Depth Chart

Wykie Freeman (Jr)
Tyler White (So)
Reggie Porter (R-Fr)

Keith McGill (Sr)
Davion Orphey
Justin Thomas (R-Fr)

Utah is losing their three starters, and arguably their top 4 cornerbacks from 2012. The initial transition is going to be tough, but there is a lot of talent on the team that will be able to step in and compete for a spot. Wykie Freeman, who along with a few other players on defense, is coming off of a season ending injury, but has NFL size and skills. A little more experience and confidence, and he has the ability to be an all conference corner. Keith McGill redshirted this past season after making the switch from safety to corner. Davion Ophey is an incoming JC transfer who will be expected to make an impact. Tyler White earned a scholarship last year and is a solid player. The Utah coaches really like what they have in White and he'll see a lot of reps. Justin Thomas was one of the freshman scout team stars this season and has as much natural ability at corner as anyone on the team. Regardless of who nails down the starting spots, there is going to be some concern going into the season with the lack of experience and replacing the top four corners from 2012. Joseph Smith has good speed and could be in the mix at nickel back and Reggie Porter impressed throughout the fall

Position Status: Downgrade

Safety

Projected Depth Chart

FREE SAFETY
Eric Rowe (Jr)
Charles Henderson (So)
Terrell Reese (Jr)

STRONG SAFETY
Quade Chappuis (Sr)
Tevin Carter (Jr)
Tyron Morris-Edwards (Jr)

Outside of Eric Rowe, who could end up at either the strong of free safety spot, nothing is really known with the safeties. There are a lot of guys, but no one has shown much consistency or an ability to stay on the field. Quade Chappuis has the most experience, and if Brian Blechen moves up to linebacker, he's the logical initial choice to play opposite Rowe. Chappuis will be coming off of an injury and has his limitations, but has still proven to be a serviceable player. Charles Henderson was earning a lot of praise after his mid-season move from receiver to safety, and with more time under his belt and in the spring to learn the position, could end up surprising a lot of people. Incoming JC transfer Tevin Carter is a very good athlete, but until we see him in person, or more film, it's hard to project how he's going to fit in at Utah or what kind of impact he can make. Tyron Morris-Edwards, Michael Walker, Terrell Reese, and Joseph Bryant will all see time as well, but who ends up playing next to Rowe is anybody's guess right now.

Position Status: Same

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