I’m still torn about how excited to be for the hype. While it’s really cool, and interesting that the program is getting noticed. I still have the feeling that it’s over the top. I suppose it may be time for us to adjust our expectations to something higher than “win our division then the conference,” to our team and program are worthy of being in same conversation as Georgia, Alabama, aTm, Ohio State, Clemson, etc. Quite heady stuff. It’s hard to decide how serious to take this stuff. I admit, ESPN is using this stuff to generate traffic, but the discussion can still be fun.
I’ve been watching the progression of the Utes in the last season by re-watching the games in sequence. Obviously, the season began with the memory of the untimely death of Ty, and after the WSU game, the heart-breaking and senseless loss of Aaron.
We also know that halfway through that set of four games, starter QB Charlie Brewer, quit the team because Cam Rising replaced him late in the 3rd quarter in the SDSU game.
Utah’s QB and WR/TE play was not very good. It reminded me of years past when receivers refused to catch the football and QBs were wildly uneven. Maybe a lot of that has to do with the OL too. On defense, despite Utah’s reputation as being one of the best, they could not stop critical plays. Overall, those four games, with losses to BYU and SDSU, were not an auspicious start to the 2021 campaign. Utah was darn right lucky to beat WSU in RES.
All of that changed at USC. Somehow, maybe Aaron’s death woke something up, the Utes decided to play to their potential, if not beyond.
Utah has been a slow starter from my seat. From that perspective I’m also concerned going into this season. A few things have changed, the Utes know now what it takes to be a conference champion and how it feels to go to a major bowl. Utah has not done that since 2008, ancient history and not during this new dispensation of championship playoffs. Also, Utah has systematically upgraded its talent pool. Finally, Utah is serious about offense in a way that is distinct from its norm. Now 4-star kids fill the QB room and are working on details and nuances of the position. And they have good coaches to move that along.
So yes, I also wish the team was receiving less attention. We can only hope the kids and coaches rise up to meet this new challenge.
Because I have been a fan for many years and suffered disappointment my natural inclination is the same as yours. That we play much better with a chip on our shoulder. But there is a different perspective as well.
Diabate, our LB transfer, mentioned that while trying to decide where to go he looked at the P5 teams who made it to their championship games, then looked at returning talent to find a team who could compete at the highest level. That was Utah and he actually reached out to us first.
So now think about players who will enter the portal after spring. Seeing that #4 ranking in the ESPN poll could create interest from a player who might not have thought of us before. Could help us get another key piece. Players want to transfer where they have a chance to play and to win championships.
I feel the same way. So many wtf games in the past that make the hype hard to believe. Perhaps we’re wrong and this is the year that makes the “Utah” brand big time. We can hope, yet have it tempered by past actions.
I don’t define success based on finding the next step on the ladder every single year, but our trendline since the early 2000s has been unbelievable, a dream. I remember trying to convince my SIL that Whitt was indeed cut out to be a head coach. lol.
Lay it out, see what happens, no regrets… it’s all gravy, guys.
Even with the slow start last year - a little bit of a head scratcher - I had faith they’d right the ship. Didn’t see the Rose Bowl coming after Week 3, but that’s a good lesson in never giving up on your guys. You never know.
The motivation of losing two teammates really moved the team last year, it seems. This year, that motivation won’t be as strong. It will be interesting to eventually see if they do find something around which to rally.
Beyond Aaron’s and Ty’s memories and their families, though… our team found out they were also playing for each other. The brotherhood, the family, the program, the bond.
Those are words, but in '21 the Utah Utes proved how powerful that very real connection can be. I’m always interested in who will step up to be leaders on the team, who embody those values, which have now been forged in titanium after last year.
On offense we need somebody to replace Ford and Covey, but those who step up will have Rising to build with.
On defense we need find the replacements for Lloyd, Sewell, Davis & Tafua, but I think Phillips, Bishop, Tafuna and Fillinger though very young, are already leaders.