Utah’s 2009 campaign won’t be able to match its unbeaten dream season of 2008.
But, in a way, what the Utes have done in the first half of 2009 — going 5-1 with the lone loss coming at No. 11 Oregon by a touchdown — says more about how strong the program has become than their run a year ago.
Utah had to replace seven offensive starters and four defensive starters from last season’s squad, including quarterback Brian Johnson, the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, three-time MWC Special Teams Player of the Year Louie Sakoda and four players who were taken in the NFL draft.
Then, early in their fourth game, the Utes lost senior Matt Asiata, the league’s leading rusher at the time, to a season-ending knee injury. And three other starters have missed several games each.
But junior college transfer Terrance Cain has looked like a veteran in replacing Johnson, the defense is stronger than ever and backups have filled in seamlessly for injured starters — like Eddie Wide, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in three games since taking over for Asiata.
“We think we’ve done a good job recruiting for five straight years now and have been able to build some depth,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who added the current roster, is “deeper and more talented” than it was in 2005, the year after the Utes’ first BCS bowl season.
“If you recruit the right way and get the right players in your program, then you’re going to have guys coming up through your system that are ready to take over when somebody goes down.”
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