It's almost time.
September 2, 2010. The date Ute fans have had circled on their calendar's since Utah's Poinsetta Bowl victory over Cal is just one week away. After nearly eight months of waiting... and waiting.. the Utes farewell tour in the MWC is nearly here.
Fall camp is nearing the end and many question marks on Utah's depth chart have gotten sorted out. As expected, the offense is expected to be the strong point of this football team, but the defense is the biggest concern among media and fans.
On offense, the Utes will be led by Sophomore QB Jordan Wynn, who went (3-2) as a starter after replacing struggling QB Terrance Cain. Although his record wasn't outstanding, he turned enough heads with strong performances, most notably with his 338 yard passing game in the Poinsettia Bowl.
At running back the Utes have what should be the best tandem in the MWC with Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata. After taking over for an injured Asiata in 2009, Wide rushed for 1,069 yards and 12 TD's earning him All MWC First Team honors. With both players back, the Utes look to use both as a spit back style of offense.
The offensive line is possibly Utah's strongest position on the team. They return four of five lineman who started last year and combine for 89 career starts for all their lineman, 26th best in the country. They have two Outland Trophy candidates with Zane Taylor and Caleb Schlauderaff.
Wide Receiver and Tight End is a young, but talented group for the Utes. Starters look to be Shaky Smithson, Jereme Brooks, Luke Matthews in the latest depth chart with Kendrick Moeai and Brad Clifford both splitting the starting spot at Tight End. Also look newcomers like speedster Reggie Dunn, Dexter Ransom and Mo Lee to be in the mix along with DeVonte Christopher and Griff McNabb.
On the defensive side of the ball the Utes have less certainty but plenty of talent. The strongest point has to be the defensive line. Whittingham has said that the second string players are as good as first string and they feel confident starting about eight of the guys.
Look for Sealver Siliga to have a big year at DT. The Junior is coming off a good season in 2009 where he led all underclassmen at Utah with 49 tackles. He is listed as a first team DT on most Preseason All MWC teams.
At corner the star is Brandon Burton, who is being labled as an All America candidate. The Junior is on the Thorpe Award watch list and was named First Team Preseason All MWC by the MWC media. He'll have his hands full this season with matchups against the nations top WR's like Michael Floyd and Jonathan Baldwin.
Speedster Conroy Black (4.3 forty) and Lamar Chapman are currently tied at the other starting corner spot. No matter who wins, look for both to get significant playing time throughout the season.
At Safety Justin Taplin-Ross will replace Robert Johnson and true freshman Brian Blechen looks to be the starting strong safety. Blechen, who was recruited as a QB, turned heads with his strong fall camp performance to earn the starting spot.
The biggest concern is the linebacker position. The three new starters will likely be J.J. Williams, Matt Martinez and Chad Manis. Chaz Walker is also in the mix to start at Middle Linebacker. Depth is an issue there and inexperience is a big issue. They will be tested early against Pitt's Dion Lewis.
The schedule for the Utes will be difficult, but favorable with tough games at home. Starting the season will be a 2005 Fiesta Bowl rematch against the Pitt Panthers who are ranked 15th in the coaches and AP polls.
After the Pitt game the Utes have an easy stretch with games against UNLV, New Mexico, San Jose State, Iowa State, Wyoming and Colorado State.
Then the schedule gets very difficult. October 30th they travel to Air Force, who traditionally always gives Utah fits and looks very strong this season. Then they face a very good TCU team at home, travel to Notre Dame, pay SDSU at home and finish with a home game against BYU.
The Utes certainly have the talent to make a run at another undefeated season but it will be tough with games against TCU, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. My biased prediction as a University of Utah student is an 11-1 season with a loss to TCU, but there are certainly other opportunities to more losses.
After this, they are off to the Pac-10. They aren't looking ahead though, and are focused on leaving the MWC as champions.
Follow Michael Rueckert on Twitter @MichaelRueckert