Why Utah Benefits From Pac-12 Postponement
As we sit here frustrated with no Pac-12 football, a tweet yesterday caught my attention. Brett Ciancia, owner of Pick Six Previews, put out a tweet regarding his player development metrics. He says it calculates “NFL Draft production ahead of expectation from raw recruiting rankings.” For the second year in a row, the University of Utah was at the top of the list. This got me thinking, are the Utes one of the biggest beneficiaries — if there are any — of the abbreviated-or-canceled season?
Under Head Coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utah program has sent 47 players to the NFL, with 31 of those coming in the Pac-12 era. Since they started Pac-12 play in 2011, they’ve had one recruiting class ranked no. 25 by Rivals and also bottomed out at no. 66. Why is all of that important? It goes back to Ciancia’s player development metric. The Utah staff is known for getting the most out of their players. It’s not just finding the diamonds-in-the-rough, in which other schools have begun to piggyback off of Utah’s defensive scholarship offers; the Utes have a knack for developing talent, whether through the weight room or scouting them for a more ideal position.
So what does this have to do with them being the biggest beneficiaries of an abbreviated season?
Make no mistake, after last season’s historic senior class, the Utes were depleted. In 2020 they needed to replace their entire secondary and all but two defensive starters. The offense wasn’t hit as bad with numbers, but it was nearly depleted of all of its difference makers other than Brant Kuithe and Britain Covey.
With the extended time to practice — that’s right, the Utes are still doing positional drills until told otherwise — their player development with the young team will be in full force. There’s also the new rule in which players' NCAA clocks won’t run by playing in the spring or by choosing to opt out for the year.
With that in mind, three areas stand to benefit the team even more than others: quarterback, running back, and the secondary. The quarterback battle between Cameron Rising and Jake Bentley will become even more intense, as Bentley proved himself in the SEC and Rising is considered a future star. At running back, Devin Brumfield was a near lock to start, but now the younger guys like Micah Bernard, Jordan Wilmore and TJ Green, will get more practice and more time to develop. In the secondary, extended time is key, as coaches Morgan Scalley and Sharrieff Shah are two of the most well-respected talent developers around.
No one is happy that the season has been delayed. The Week 1 NCAA rankings are nice, but also viewed as a slap in the face, as Utah appeared in both the AP and the Coaches Polls. However, when an abbreviated spring season rolls around, it’ll set the Utes up faster for success than it likely would have happened otherwise. Then when the fall 2021 season begins, the Utes will have benefited from all of this development time and their guys not losing a year of eligibility.
That’s the positive spin to this craziness, as we all suffer through a fall with no Pac-12 football. The Utes will be back soon and better for it.