NFL Draft analyst John Vogel previews the Utah Utes ahead of the 2021 season. Predictions, pre-season grades, and more:
The Utah Utes find themselves off a shortened season that was less than stellar than recent memory. Their 3-2 season record points to the weaknesses that this team showed on offense. Utah’s quarterback situation was unsolved all season, rotating between three quarterbacks who all struggled with consistency. The Utes hope to have solved that this season with Baylor graduate transfer Charlie Brewer.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 17th season as the headman, resilient and unwithering. His record speaks for itself; five ten-win seasons during his tenure, with only two losing seasons between 2012 and 2013. His program is built by physicality and toughness, focusing more on producing results in the weight room and bringing that strength to the field.
Ty Jordan, the freshman running back who exploded on the scene in 2020, is also a must mention in this article. Jordan died on Christmas night, 2020, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He would receive honors post-humously for PAC-12 Newcomer of the Year as well as an All-American Freshman. Prayers continue to be extended to the Jordan family surrounding this tragic incident.
Utah has its annual game with BYU (Sept. 9th) on the road this season and will travel to face in-conference threats USC (Oct. 9th) and Stanford (Nov. 5th). At home, they have Arizona State (Oct. 16th) and Oregon (Nov. 20th). It will be a very challenging season for the Utes.
Utah Utes offense led by Baylor Bears transfer QB Charlie Brewer (R-Sr)
#12 | HT: 6’0″ | WT: 205 | High School: Lake Travis (Austin, TX)
Charlie Brewer enters the programs with hopes to be the team’s answer to the quarterback position. He spent four years at Baylor, coming to the Utes as a graduate transfer. He has 39 starts under his belt from his time in Waco, Texas. His father, Robert, walked on to Texas in 1981 as a quarterback and started for the Longhorns for two seasons. He’s grown up around quarterbacks and is very familiar with the position.
Brewer is an excellent athlete that Baylor built an RPO-style offense around. Outside of the pocket, he has speed and can be a nightmare to defend as a runner. Baylor ran a lot of quarterback-designed runs around him as well.
Consistent accuracy has been a major crutch throughout Brewer’s career. He will miss “gimmie” passes too often for many people’s likings. A lot of that comes from his poor footwork, which creates an extended-release. His arm isn’t exactly thrilling either, as he struggles to stretch the field vertically. I’m sure he can earn a camp invite, but there’s a lot to overcome for any real NFL chances.
Pre Season Grade: PDFA.
Slot WR Theo Howard (6-Sr)
#? | HT: 5’11” | WT: 180 | High School: Westlake (Thousand Oaks, CA)
Theo Howard has seen an interesting couple of years in his college career. Initially a big playmaker at UCLA, Howard transferred out of the program to Oklahoma as a graduate transfer last year. Covid granted him a final year of eligibility, which Howard has used to transfer back into the PAC-12 with the Utah Utes in 2021. Howard will most likely play out of the Z in the Utah scheme but will best fit the slot in the NFL because of his size and ability underneath.
Theo’s priority this season has to be staying healthy. He’s seen a couple of injuries that have hampered his availability in college, so that’s going to be important. He appeared in 8 games with Oklahoma as their X receiver but only really dominated against Missouri State in the season opener. Howard has to show better route-running ability to get himself open, though taking a step back to a Z should help him tremendously.
Pre Season Grade: 7th/PDFA.
Slot WR Britain Covey (R-Sr)
#18 | HT: 5’7″ | WT: 170 | High School: Timpview (Provo, UT)
Here’s a crazy story for you. Britain Covey was a 2015 Freshman All-American before taking two full seasons off college football to serve a Church Mission in Chile. He returned to the Utah football program in 2018 and has been named an All-PAC 12 punt returner in two of the last three seasons.
Covey’s size and his age are the biggest factors he’s working against. He’s shown himself to be a good route runner, have high-level speed, and be an explosive athlete after the catch. Covey’s hopeful role at the next level is someone who can continue developing and returning kicks while doing so. His age will bring skepticism to his ability to really develop, but Covey is an intriguing name to keep an eye on.
Pre Season Grade: PDFA.
EDGE Maxs Tupai (6-Sr)
#92 | HT: 6’0″ | WT: 260 | High School: Murray (Taylorsville, UT)
2021 will be Maxs Tupai’s third season as a starter for Utah, and he has 13 career starts already. He’s smart and instinctive. Usually found near the football, Tupai has been a stellar college-level defender during his time at Utah, amassing 36 appearances throughout his career.
The problem with Tupai is that he’s used as a 3-tech and a 5-tech defender in a hybrid 3/4 front. He doesn’t have the athleticism and speed of moving into a 4/3 front, but his size doesn’t bode well for the 3/4 in the NFL. At best, Tupai would project as a rotational piece primarily on the team for depth. I don’t think he has too much chance of getting drafted and will pursue NFL hopes as an undrafted free agent.
Pre Season Grade: PDFA.
DT Viane Moala (6-Sr)
#98 | HT: 6’5″ | WT: 315 | High School: Tafuna (Ili’ili, American Samoa)
Viane Moala entered the Utah program in 2018 as a transfer student from Hawaii. Moala had eight starts in his two seasons as a part of the Hawaii program from 2016-17. The NFL is going to love the size that he brings to the field because of his brute strength.
The problem with Moala from tape in 2020 was that he’s very raw from a technical standpoint, and I think that kept him from being on the field as much as possible. He has an excellent first step and hits the line with explosiveness but tries to shove people out of the way without engaging to deposition the blocker. If he can become more technical, he will sour through the ranks in 2021.
Pre Season Grade: 7th/PDFA.
Utah Utes defense headed by star On-LB Devin Lloyd (R-Sr)
#0 | HT: 6’2″ | WT: 230 | High School: Otay Ranch (Chula Vista, CA)
Devin Lloyd is the main focus of this defense, the versatile linebacker who played all across this defense. Lloyd is an explosive defender, smart and instinctive in his assignments. Serving as a team captain last year, he brings his knowledge and passion for the game to the field as a natural leader.
Lloyd has many positive traits and talents that are obvious quickly on film. He’s a good tackler and features great length in his body frame. Lloyd is quick and has the speed to stay in coverage with a lot of different players in the NFL. He’s displayed some of that ability in college. While he flashes instincts, sometimes he pulls himself out of the play, trying to read into it too hard. Other times, he misses tackles by simply under pursuing the play. Regardless, I’d expect him to be a highly sought-after prospect with everything he brings to the field in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Pre Season Grade: 1st/2nd Round.
S Vonte Davis (R-Sr)
#9 | HT: 5’11” | WT: 185 | High School: Terry (Rosenberg, TX)
Vonte Davis entered the program in 2018 after spending a year in the JUCO ranks at Blinn College. It’s been nothing but up for him ever since. Davis became the starter for the first time in 2020 and showed high-level tackling ability with a forceful downhill tackling style.
Davis has good speed and has flashed good instincts, but his lack of experience prevents him from being very sharp. He will often under pursue the play and miss the tackle, even when he’s the last man in a position to make it. These are the type of things I think a full season will help clean up. Utah had a talented secondary that went pro following the 2019 season, so Davis has a good chance to be a riser in the 2022 cycle.
Pre Season Grade: 5th/7th Round.