Ute football notebook

By Chris Kamrani

Check out the new digs

The U football team released its new uniforms for the upcoming season, which are sponsored by Under Armour. Utes Robert Johnson and Darrell Mack were on full display with Johnson in the visitor’s white with Mack in the home crimson red.

Johnson was a fan of the new Under Armour jerseys, not because of the way they look, but rather the way they fit.

“This is my first time ever wearing them, but I like ’em,” Johnson said. “Feels great to wear them and have my name on the back. We’re going to see how everything works out this year with this new (jersey).”

Head coach Kyle Whittingham approved of the new uniforms, although, true to character, he didn’t care what the uniforms looked like.

The Ute players started a petition last semester to receive a third jersey. The players decided they wanted to don a potential black jersey once during the upcoming season, but the black jersey remains in limbo.

The five-year affiliation between the Utes and Under Armour was announced April 8.

Five former Utes named to MWC All-Decade team

In celebration of the Mountain West Conference’s 10th anniversary team, the Utes had five players selected to the all-decade football squad. The team was hand-picked by a panel of media, conference and institutional representatives alongside votes from the fans.

Former No. 1 draft pick and Heisman Trophy finalist Alex Smith was selected as the conference’s all-decade quarterback. Most notably, Smith fueled the unprecedented run to the BCS-busting Fiesta Bowl, not to mention a 12-0 record. That season Smith was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Year and the Sports Illustrated National Player of the Year.

Former offensive lineman Jordan Gross was a force to be reckoned with during his time in a Ute uniform. He was a 2002 Consensus All-American and was the first offensive lineman taken in the 2003 NFL draft, going No. 8 to the Carolina Panthers.

Fan-favorite and defensive wizard Eric Weddle was also named to the all-decade team. The two-time MWC Defensive Player of the Year was a Consensus All-American in 2006 and was drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers.

Steve Fifita flashed brilliance in the Fiesta Bowl against the Pittsburgh Panthers, which garnered him the Defensive MVP and was also a two-time all-MWC defensive lineman. Fifita played for the Miami Dolphins during the 2006-2007 season and is now on the New England Patriots’ roster.

Offensive lineman Doug Kaufusi, who was two-time all-MWC player was also named a third team All-American by Sporting News in 2001.

All-decade teams will be selected for each of the 19 conference-sponsored sports during the 2008-2009 athletic season in celebration of the MWC’s 10th birthday. To be eligible for an award, candidates must have been chosen as a first team all-MWC at least once.

Utes selected second in preseason MWC poll

It looks as if critics are still putting the Utes behind their bitter rivals. The U was picked second in the annual Mountain West Conference preseason media poll, behind BYU. The Utes garnered 274 points and five first-place votes, while the Cougars had 25 more points than the Utes with a total of 299.

The U had five players in six separate positions on the 2008 preseason all-conference team. Placekicker and punter Louie Sakoda was chosen as the conference’s special teams player of the year. Alongside Sakoda is offensive lineman Robert Conley, defensive lineman Paul Kruger and defensive backs Robert Johnson and Brice McCain.

“Sweet” Louie named preseason All-American, Athlon picks Utes third

Athlon College Football chose senior punter/kicker Louie Sakoda as its second-team All-American punter.

Sakoda, who won two All-American honors as a punter and one as a kicker last season, has been a mainstay in the MWC award department as a special teams player. He enters his final year with the Utes in the top five out of nine career categories at the U, most notably first place in career field goal percentage with .833. Sakoda has also been named to the Ray Guy Award preseason watch list, which annually honors the top punter in college football.

While Athlon went on to predict the Utes would finish second in the MWC this upcoming season, it also predicted the U as the No. 3 non-BCS team in the nation and ranked them No. 33 overall. BYU was the top non-BCS school (Athlon ranked the Cougars No. 14 overall) and Fresno State was second (picked No. 25 overall). Five Utes also made the preseason first-team all-MWC picks by Athlon, including Sakoda, along with seniors Robert Conley and Brice McCain and sophomore defensive end Paul Kruger.

Rounding out the second-team merits were impact players such as quarterback Brian Johnson, running back Darrell Mack, wide receiver Brent Casteel and middle linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. Mack was also recognized as the league’s top returning running back for the 2008 season. The Utes also had six incoming recruits in the Athlon’s MWC top 20, most notably, defensive lineman David Kruger (No. 4), running back Sausan Shakerin (No. 5) and wide receiver Luke Matthews (No. 7).

Get ’em while they’re hot

Season tickets for the upcoming season have topped 26,000 for the first time in school history. This is the fourth season in a row that the Utes have set a new record in season ticket sales, with an increase of about 1,600 from last season. The tickets have spiked every year since head coach Kyle Whittingham took the reigns back in 2005, and sales have increased by more than 7,000 during that time period.

Despite the record sales, there are still available season tickets all over Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah’s home schedule this season features perennial Pac-10 power Oregon State on Oct. 2 and rival BYU on Nov. 22. Others include TCU, UNLV, Colorado State and Weber State.

Wilson not allowed to suit up for Utes

Senior receiver Marquis Wilson will not be part of the 2008-2009 U football team. Wilson was reinstated by head coach Kyle Whittingham for spring workouts, but it is apparent Wilson might have seen his last action in a Ute uniform. Wilson has the option to attempt to stay with the program by using his redshirt year this season or he could end up deciding to transfer to another school.

Wilson faced charges of drunken driving and possession of alcohol by a minor in 2006. The former Juan Diego athlete has hauled in 832 yards and six touchdowns during his time at the U.

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