Things started to click for Utah Tech down the stretch a season ago, leaving the Trailblazers itching for the start of the 2023 football season. 

“As our season progressed (last year), we did some really good things in some of those games,” Utah Tech head coach Paul Peterson said. “We’re hoping that we get that momentum into this season, play with a bunch of confidence and see how it goes game to game and continue to get better.”

Utah Tech will begin its schedule Sept. 2 on the road against 2022 Big Sky champion and FCS No. 3-ranked Montana State. In Week 2 the Trailblazers return home to take on another ranked Big Sky foe, Montana, which checks in at No. 14 in the preseason rankings. 

Utah Tech plays its final nonconference game against Colorado State before beginning league play in the newly minted United Athletic Conference.

Asked about his team’s prospects of winning a conference title, Peterson responded, “That’s definitely a goal. … It’s going to be exciting. I think it’s open to anybody right now. … We’re playing for a conference championship. That’s our mindset every game.”

UAC play will consist of six games this season, but will increase to eight starting next year. Utah Tech’s first conference game will be against Stephen F. Austin and conclude with rival SUU in mid-November. 

This season will be the Trailblazers’ final year of full implementation into the FCS, which means they still won’t be able to qualify for the end-of-year playoffs. However, that will not deter Peterson and his squad from doing their best to make sure opponents know what’s brewing in St. George. 

“I want (opponents saying), ‘Playing this team is no joke. They’re going to be a playoff contender in the future,’” the fifth-year head coach said. “I want people to be able to see that by the quality of football that we’re playing.” 

Much like a year ago, things still remain up in the air as to who will be under center for the Trailblazers when the season begins next month. 

Peterson expects to name a starting quarterback on game day with the decision coming down to redshirt sophomore Boone Abbott and redshirt junior Kobe Tracy, both of whom had meaningful reps for the school last year. 

Peterson says senior wide receiver Rickie Johnson has been targeted by NFL scouts and feels that Johnson could have a great year for Utah Tech. Senior Liberty transfer Jaivian Lofton and freshman speedster Beau Sparks should also make an impact at wide receiver for the Trailblazers.

Shouldering the load on the ground for Utah Tech will be transfer running backs Ronnie Walker Jr. from Virginia and Chris Street out of Cal. The running backs will be working behind an experienced offensive line led by junior Bayo Kannike and redshirt sophomore Alex Foster.

On defense, the Trailblazers will be led up front by junior defensive linemen Syrus Webster and redshirt senior Sam Kanongata’a. 

Peterson is excited about the experience third-year starting linebacker Will Leota and senior transfer linebacker Dondi Fuller bring to his roster. 

Despite being redshirt sophomores, Devyn Perkins and Jayden Sheridan are experienced cornerbacks that will start for the Trailblazers. They will be joined in the backfield by redshirt junior Jordan Scott — another returning starter.   

On special teams, Peterson has great confidence in his junior kicker and junior punter that will be coming back this year. Connor Brooksby, who holds the school record for the longest field goal, will take care of kicking while Andy Day will be punting. 

Utah Tech will have a pair of coaches leading each side of the ball from the sideline. A year ago, the Trailblazers had two defensive coordinators, Misi Tupe and Shane Hunter, who both return to the defensive side of the ball. This season, John Hughes and Peter Tuitupou will join forces, each in his first year under the headset on offense. 

Peterson likes the unity and collaboration between his co-coordinators and feels that his team will be able to find success on offense and defense with the help of those four coaches.

Utah Tech is eager to get back on the field for a second act to its four wins a year ago — its most victories in a season since joining the FCS ranks. The school hopes to improve from where it left off a year ago after winning three of its final four contests.

“By the end of the season, it’ll be fun to see where we’re at,” Peterson said.

 2023 schedule

  • Date | Opponent | Time | Location
  • Sept. 2 (Sat.) | at Montana State | 6 p.m. MDT |  Bozeman, Mont.
  • Sept. 9 (Sat.) | vs. Montana | 7 p.m. | Greater Zion Stadium                                      
  • Sept. 16 (Sat.) | at Northern Arizona | 2 p.m. | Flagstaff, Ariz.
  • Sept. 23 (Sat.) at Missouri State | 1 p.m. | Springfield, Mo.
  • Sept. 30 (Sat.) | at Colorado State | 5 p.m. | Fort Collins, Colo.
  • Oct. 7 (Sat.) | vs. Stephen F. Austin | 7 p.m. | Greater Zion Stadium                                      
  • Oct. 21 (Sat.) | at North Alabama | 5 p.m. | Florence, Ala.
  • Oct. 28 (Sat.) | vs. Eastern Kentucky | 6 p.m. | Greater Zion Stadium                                      
  • Nov. 4 (Sat.) | at Abilene Christian | 1 p.m. | Abilene, Texas
  • Nov. 11 (Sat.) | at Austin Peay | Noon | Clarksville, Tenn.
  • Nov. 18 (Sat.) | vs. Southern Utah | 7 p.m. | Greater Zion Stadium