Looking ahead

While the Utes will lose talent at nearly every position, the 2005 stables won’t be as empty as the skeptics may suggest. Here is a look at the players head coach Kyle Whittingham has at his disposal in his first year at the helm.

O-lineKey losses: Chris Kemoeatu, Makai AalonaProbable 2005 contributors: Mitch Arquette, Jason Boone, Jesse Boone, Robert Conley, Steve Dahl, David Dirkmaat, Kyle Gunther, Andrew Johnson, Eric Pettit, Paul Soliai, Tavo Tupola, Jason Voss

While losing Kemoeatu and Aalona will hurt, this unit will have lots of big bodies providing plenty of depth. Soliai, a former JC All-American who was the Utes’ recruiting jewel a year ago, should step in just fine for Kemoeatu after a redshirt year. Pettit filled in well for Aalona during an injury. He should start along with Soliai, Jesse Boone, Tupola, and Dirkmaat. One to watch is Robert Conley, who was a Texas weightlifting champion in high school.

ReceiversKey losses: Paris Warren, Steve Savoy, Jerome Wright, Travis LaTendresseProbable 2005 contributors:Brent Casteel, Thomas Huff, Jordan Johnson, John Madsen, John Peel, Derrek Richards, Marquis Wilson

Losing two of the best receivers in school history will be a big problem for an offense that still figures to be pretty wide open. The good news is that LaTendresse might receive a medical exemption and return for another year. Madsen is the top returner on the unit, and along with Huff, Johnson, and Peel, could create big mismatches against small secondaries. All stand 6 feet 2 inches or taller. A darkhorse here is high school commit Marquis Wilson. Wilson is one of the top prep receivers in the country, and could immediately compete to fill Savoy’s shoes.

Running BacksKey loss: Marty JohnsonProbable 2005 contributors: Quinton Ganther, Joe Johnson, Mike Liti, Darryl Poston, Ray Stowers

Toward the end of the season, Ganther was the No. 1 back, and with Liti coming back after redshirting, this unit should be a big strength. Johnson will get some carries as a scatback and Poston will probably be used as a speedy special teams contributor. Ray Stowers was a big time recruit coming out of high school, but will be buried on the depth chart following his redshirt year.

QuarterbacksKey loss: Alex SmithProbable 2005 contributors: Brian Johnson, Danny Southwick, Fano Tagovailoa, Adam Madsen

Basically the QB depth chart looks the same as last year-minus the best quarterback in school history. Johnson gained valuable game experience as a backup this season, and looks to have all the tools. He suffered from the same stigma Smith did in high school, having so much talent surrounding him that his own recruiting stature was diminished. Southwick, a former BYU signee, will walk on and compete with Johnson, after spurning scholarship offers from Penn State and Western Michigan.

D-LineKey losses: Sione Pouha, Jon Fanene, Tevita Kemoeatu, Reza WilliamsProbable 2005 contributors: Kite Afeaki, Terrance Apted, Martail Burnett, Tony Castaldi, Randy Faletoi, Steve Fifita, Paul Kruger, Marquess Ledbetter, Soli Lefiti Bryce Scanlon, Andrew Smart, Nik Sonntag, Kelly Talavou

If there is a big question mark on next year’s squad, it is the defensive line. Fifita will be the anchor, and should be the best tackle in the conference. Ledbetter will be fine on the end, but after that it gets a little hazy. Kemoeatu is petitioning for an extra year of eligibility, and should he get it, will compete with Idaho transfer Talavou to replace Pouha. Lefiti is a newly committed JC transfer who should get time at Fanene’s vacant end spot. The coaches love Kruger, but the ex-quarterback may go on a mission before next season. Smart, a returned missionary, starred at Brighton and should supply depth at the end position.

LinebackersKey losses: Corey Dodds, Tommy HackenbruckProbable 2005 contributors: Kyle Brady, Joe Jiannoni, Grady Marshall, Taylor Miller, Malakai Mokofisi, Alex Puccinelli, Spencer Toone

Toone is the only sure thing here, with many talented but green youngsters competing for a starting job. Brady, Jiannoni, and Puccinelli were all heralded prep stars, but so far none have separated themselves from the pack. Marshall and Miller both could make impacts, as they have proven their worth on special teams.

SecondaryKey losses: Morgan Scalley, Gerald Fletcher, Bo Nagahi Probable 2005 contributors: Casey Evans, Afa Garrigan, Shaun Harper, Tim Harris, Matt Mason, Eugene Oates, Adarrious Ross, Ryan Smith, Steve Tate, Dymond Unatoa, Justin Walker Eric Weddle, Antonio Young

While losing Scalley is a huge blow, the secondary will be strong next year. Weddle and Evans should start at the safety spots. Smith will hold down one corner, with Oates, Harper and Harris competing for the other spot. Young is an excellent reserve safety, and if Mason and Ross copy Smith’s talent the same way they emulate his physical abilities, the Utes will be set at cornerback for years. The speedy Walker moves over to defense, and should break into the rotation somewhere.

Special TeamsKey losses: David Carroll, Matt Kovacevich, Brady ParkhurstProbable 2005 contributors: Dan Beardall, Bryan Borreson, Brent Rawlings

Carroll goes on a mission and Kovacevich graduates. Both leave huge voids. Borreson returns after missing the second half of the season with a groin injury. Punter is still up in the air, and could be filled by a walk-on in the [email protected]