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There are a lot of reasons why Utah can’t wait for 2021 season, including ‘amazing’ renovated stadium

After a campaign severely impacted by the pandemic, players, coaches and fans are eagerly anticipating the season opener at the newly renovated and expanded Rice-Eccles Stadium

Construction and renovation continues on Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Construction continues on Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 8, 2021. After a campaign severely impacted by the pandemic, players, coaches and fans are eagerly anticipating the season opener Sept. 2 against Weber State at newly renovated and expanded Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

It’s just weeks until Utah opens fall camp in preparation for the 2021 season.

After a campaign severely impacted by the pandemic, Ute players, coaches and fans are eagerly anticipating the season opener Sept. 2 against Weber State at newly renovated and expanded Rice-Eccles Stadium as coach Kyle Whittingham heads into his 17th year at the helm.

Pac-12 football media day will be held July 27 in Los Angeles.

When asked near the end of spring practices what he’s looking forward to most about the upcoming season, defensive lineman Devin Kaufusi didn’t hold back, expressing his hope for no canceled games and sellout crowds. In addition, he and his teammates are dedicating the season to running back Ty Jordan, who died last December after a remarkable freshman year.

“I’m hoping to for sure have a full season with my teammates. With all of the hard work we’re doing, and the guys all want to win and we’re paying the price for that. It’s a special energy and mindset that everyone has,” Kaufusi said. “I want a full stadium at Rice-Eccles. That stadium is amazing. It took my breath away when I walked into the scrimmage.

An aerial view of renovations to the south end zone at Rice-Eccles Stadium, which will be completed in time for the Utes to usher in the new season Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, against Weber State.
Layton Construction

“It’s a different feeling and the fans are going to love it. Having fans in the stadium at a brand-new Rice-Eccles is going to be one of the top atmospheres in college football,” he continued. “That’s what we all really want. And especially to pay it forward for Ty Jordan. He was such a crucial part of the success of last season and his impact on this team. We have him in mind in our prayers and hearts. We’d love to do everything we can to represent him.”

Sophomore quarterback Cam Rising, who will be battling Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer for the starting job in August, said the Utes learned a lot from last year’s 3-2 campaign.

“I think we’re going to become a better team from it and that’s pretty much how I’m approaching it,” Rising said. “I think we just learned that we’re the thing that can hold us back and we’re also the thing that can make sure that we win those games. We hold the keys to the car when it comes to what we want to do. That’s the biggest thing, thinking of last year.”

Utah returns most of its team from a season ago, including plenty of experienced, proven veterans. The Utes also boast a lot of young talent while adding several key transfers from Power Five programs.

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is optimistic about what the offense can achieve this season.

“We’re going into the third year running the same offensive system. The veteran players know the system inside and out. There are no radical changes or adjustments to what we’re doing, especially in the spring as we’re trying to break in new quarterbacks and tailbacks,” Ludwig said. “It’s about the the core of the offense. As you look at (offensive lineman) Nick Ford, (tight end) Cole Fotheringham, (tight end) Brant Kuithe, these players have been around and they know the ins and outs of the X’s and O’s from a players’ perspective to the new guys and ease the transition and learning curve.”