There was plenty to celebrate for the Utah football team when the Pac-12 preseason all-conference team was released Tuesday — the Utes had a league-high six players on the first team.

There was a notable all-conference omission for Utah, though.

The Utes had three offensive players and three defenders make the first team:

  • Senior tight end Brant Kuithe.
  • Junior offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea.
  • Junior offensive lineman Keaton Bills.
  • Junior defensive tackle Junior Tafuna.
  • Junior linebacker Karene Reid.
  • Junior safety Cole Bishop.

Utah also landed a pair of defensive players on the all-conference second team:

  • Junior defensive end Van Fillinger.
  • Sophomore linebacker Lander Barton.

Four others made the honorable mention list:

  • Sophomore offensive lineman Michael Mokofisi.
  • Junior defensive end Jonah Elliss.
  • Senior cornerback JaTravis Broughton.
  • Junior cornerback Zemaiah Vaughn.

That’s 12 preseason All-Pac-12 selections for the Utes in total, headlined by Kuithe, a three-time All-Pac-12 selection, and Tafuna, a postseason second-team honoree in 2022 after being named the league’s freshman defensive player of the year in 2021.

Only two of Utah’s honorees are seniors, along with eight juniors and two sophomores.

Utah’s six first-team selections was one more than USC and Oregon State, who tied for the second-most.

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Notably absent from the preseason list, though, was Utah senior quarterback Cam Rising, who has led the Utes to back-to-back Pac-12 championships.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner and USC quarterback Caleb Williams landed on the preseason All-Pac-12 first team at the position, while Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. made the second team at quarterback.

Rising earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors in the 2022 postseason awards, behind first-teamer Williams and second-teamer Penix.

Oregon’s Bo Nix also returns this season, giving the Pac-12 what is widely considered the deepest group of quarterbacks by a conference nationwide.

A big difference between the preseason and postseason all-conference awards, though, is who does the voting. The media votes for the preseason, and Pac-12 coaches vote for the postseason awards.

Only players who received four or more votes from members of the media — and weren’t among the top two vote-getters at that position — were listed as honorable mention honorees at any given position in the preseason awards. 

Nix was the lone preseason all-conference honorable mention honoree at quarterback.

By comparison, there were five quarterbacks who earned postseason all-conference honorable mention honors last season.

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Rising is coming off knee surgery this offseason after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the Utes’ loss to Penn State in last year’s Rose Bowl.

Rising will be on hand Friday taking questions when the Pac-12 holds its annual football media days in Las Vegas.

Last week, though, he told ESPN 700’s Bill Riley that things are progressing well in his recovery and the quarterback expects to be back for the Utes’ season opener Aug. 31 against Florida.

“Yeah, so that’s still what I’m planning on doing and everything in rehab is going accordingly,” Rising told Riley. “Just got to keep it going. Everything should be going well there.”

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