Commentary: BYU and Utah football programs aren't all that different (5 items)
For the Deseret News
Going into the football season, football fans like to rally behind their respective teams, believing this is the year for that breakout season. Before the first game is played, fans and the media carry expectations into the season.
Fans of rival schools point out why their team is better than the rest. A look at recent history however, shows that the football programs at Utah and BYU are quite similar.
After the 2004 season, Bronco Mendenhall and Kyle Whittingham, who were serving as defensive coordinators for their respective schools, took over the head coaching positions for the 2005 season. This upcoming season will mark the ninth year for both head coaches.
So what else do these rival schools have in common? Let's find out.
Justin Giles is a recent graduate of the University of Utah. EMAIL: email@example.com
1 of 5. Quarterbacks
2 of 5. Wide receivers
Both BYU and Utah have a lot of experienced starters returning who will be counted on early to help carry the team. If BYU and Utah cannot get big plays and consistency out of their receivers, then both programs could be in for a long season.
3 of 5. Tight ends
Devin Mahina, Richard Wilson and Kaneakua Friel will look to make a big impact for the Cougars, while Jake Murphy and Westlee Tonga look to lead the Utes. BYU and Utah are both implementing a fast-paced offense that should translate into more positions for each team. It will be interesting to see how big of a role the tight ends will play in the new offenses.
4 of 5. Defense
Utah lost a couple of players due to retirement or season-ending injuries. Brian Blechen, one of the leaders on the Utah defense, has been sidelined a bit in fall camp due to tendinitis.
BYU could not escape the injury bug either as it lost three players at the cornerback position. Jordan Johnson and Trent Trammell went down with season-ending injuries and would-be sophomore Jacob Hannemann was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the MLB draft. Because of the lack of depth at key positions, both BYU and Utah have already begun the process of having players switch positions in order to stay afloat and run practices.
The defense over the last couple of years has been outstanding for BYU and Utah. If those programs want to keep it that way, they will need to find a way to stay healthy. Not only will they have to stay healthy, but both programs will need playmakers to emerge in hopes of filling the voids left by those who went on to play in the NFL.
5 of 5. NFL draft
Even though both programs are in different circumstances (independence, Pac-12) both programs still have more things in common than most people think. With only 45 miles separating these rival schools, it is remarkable to see how similar these football programs really are.