Utah football debuts with highest preason ranking ever, BYU at number 25

Utes was ranked number 8 in the first AFCA Coaches Poll last week.

(Hunter Dyke | Utah Athletics) Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham addresses his team during soccer practice in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

The University of Utah opens its season on September 3 at the University of Florida, ranked in the top 10 in both national polls.

The Utes, 10-4 overall and last season’s first Pac-12 champions, debuted Monday morning in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 at number 7. This marks the sixth time Utah has been ranked in the preseason by the AP, which has been producing a preseason poll since 1950.

The AP ranking comes a week after Utah came in at number 8 in the first AFCA Coaches Poll. At the time, number 8 was the highest preseason ranking in the program’s history.

Oregon checked in at number 11 on Monday, while USC was number 14. Utah will host the Trojans at Rice-Eccles Stadium on October 15, and later travel to Eugene to face the Ducks on November 19.

Meanwhile, BYU snuck in at No. 25 in the AP poll after being left out of the Coaches poll. The Cougars are the third incoming Big 12 member to be ranked, after Cincinnati (No. 23) and Houston (No. 24). The Cougars will begin Big 12 play in 2023.

BYU’s home-opening opponent, Baylor, checked in at number 10 in the AP Poll. The following week, BYU heads out against the aforementioned Ducks.

Four of BYU’s opponents start the season ranked. Notre Dame, which will play BYU in Las Vegas on October 8, is ranked No. 5 in both the Coaches and the AP Poll. Arkansas is ranked number 19 after being number 21 in the first Coaches Poll.

Utah State, BYU’s Week 5 matchup, received two votes.

QB2 still unknown

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has said several times in the past two weeks that he hoped his reserve quarterback would settle down after the first scrimmage.

That timeline has been extended because Whittingham was not ready on Monday to choose between Bryson Barnes and Ja’Quinden Jackson. That camp competition will now drag in this weekend, when the Utes will scrim for a second and final time.

“They both had excellent scrimmages, and they’re the two guys competing, it’s up to them exclusively for the number 2 man,” Whittingham said. “We’ll have an answer coming out of the next scrimmage, exactly how we’re going to approach it.”

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig added: “We are still working on it, both guys are fighting really hard and we are in a good situation at the moment. We will probably want to make a formal decision after the next scrimmage and give these guys another week of work.”

Eight offensive linemen in the mix after first scrimmage

After Utah made its first scrimmage on Saturday, offensive line coach Jim Harding said Monday afternoon that he believes he has eight players he will go into the season with barring injuries.

Harding suggested that the start of the right tackle is still up for grabs between Jaren Kump and Falcon Kaumatale. Kump, who is coming to the end of the season with knee surgery, is considered the favourite, although Harding pointed out that Kump is rusty, having only practiced 10 times in the past 10 months.

“Those 10 workouts have been around since we got back,” Harding said during a Zoom call. “After being injured at the end of September, and especially in spring training, he did footwork in the back and did everything he could.

“It certainly wasn’t his fault, but the bottom line is that he’s only been practicing for 10 days. The child has an extremely high care factor, a great work ethic. He’s in the top eight, he’s going for the top five.”

Another undetermined spot is in the center where the Utes follow a fight between Paul Maile and Johnny Maea, according to Harding.

That would indicate that seven of the top eight are Braeden Daniels, Keaton Bills, Sataoa Laumea, Kump, Kaumatule, Maile and Maea. Daniels, Bills (left guard) and Laumea (right guard) are all established starters, although Daniels shifts from right to left tackle.

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