A Utah Man, Are You?

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What once sounded like a hammer to the head (helmets colliding) may now sound like the squeals of children on Christmas morning. Utah football is back! They will begin their 2020 season on November 21st – weeks behind the rest of the college football world, and one week after their original home opener was canceled. The effects of COVID-19 have already ensured the Utes’ football season will be anything but typical, but the virus may prove the least of their worries. After graduating their star quarterback (Tyler Huntley), running back (Zack Moss), and nine defensive starters in 2019, the projections for the 2020 Utes aren’t looking so hot.     

The Utes finished the 2019 season ranked 12th in the nation and won the Pac-12 South Division for the second year in a row. This year, however, the media only projects them to finish third in the Pac-12 South. Even some die-hard Ute fans agree with this prediction. Dallin Martin said, “It is going to be a tough year to determine how good of a team they truly are. I think it is going to be tough for any team in the country to determine how good they really are given the circumstances. However, with that being said, I expect them to be in the top 3 of the South and finish in the top 5 of the conference.” 

In response to negative predictions from media and fans, head coach Kyle Whittingham told Register-Guard, “When you look at the players that we lost and who we have to replace, I don’t blame them for picking us where they did. That’s just a typical reaction, but it all depends on how these new guys that are getting opportunities handle it, and that’s really the bottom line. We’ve got to have guys step up.”

Jeff Rudy, the Utes’ Director of Football Operations, also emphasized how important it will be for every player to be game-ready. He said, “It’s funny, normally I would say a particular team should and will be difficult… But this year, we have a new opponent along with our scheduled opponent: COVID. Each week, the roster for our team could look significantly different from the last week… Everyone needs to ‘Do Your Job!’ and learn your assignments, plays, and responsibilities because more so than ever, you never know when your number will be called to perform.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of the Utes’ 2020 season, and it hasn’t even started yet. Rudy said, “The one thing that you can count on with COVID is everyday is going to be different from the day before… The biggest impact on game day will be the fan aspect. We are used to playing in front of almost 50,000 people each week at home. Right now, I am hoping that we are able to host 2% which is 1,000 people, and that is only the tip of the iceberg.” 

Even though aspects of this year’s Utah Football season will be different than ever before, there’s something about seeing the red, white, and black back on the field that helps usher normalcy into these unprecedented times. Rudy said, “We are all excited for the opportunity to play this year, if at all, for the sole reason of trying to bring some normalcy back to our lives! 

Everything, because of COVID, has been turned upside down or disrupted, and we’ve all had to find new ways to live our lives.” Krista Marler, life-long Ute fan, said, “I was super excited [to hear about the return of Utah football]! I love watching sports, and football is one thing that makes winter tolerable!”

Although there is immense excitement and anxiety concerning the Utes’ upcoming football season, one thing can be made certain – some football is better than no football. In an age where we were forced to watch Super Bowl reruns from 1974 on ESPN, it’s unlikely live football will ever be taken for granted again. Though the road ahead for Utah football has some forecasted bumps in the road, coaches feel they have the tools necessary to scale them. Now sit back and enjoy as fans, players, and coaches alike come together with the resounding cheer, “Go Utes!”