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Utah football: What we know and what we don’t about position battles heading into the season opener

Utah running back Devin Brumfield carries the ball during a team scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.
Utah Athletics

This season was always going to very much be a transitional one for the Utah Utes football team, as it lost a bunch of production on both sides of the ball.

As the week of the Utes’ first game has arrived, the team on Monday released a two-deep chart. While the biggest question — who will be the starting quarterback? — was not revealed, a number of other position battles have been sorted out as the Utes get ready to play the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday.

Here’s a look at how this week’s depth chart compares with the one the team released at the beginning of fall camp in October before players had a chance to better compete for spots.

OFFENSE

No change from October:

LT: Nick Ford

C: Orlando Umana

Newly named starters:

RG: Sataoa Laumea is now listed as the starter, with Bam Olaseni the backup. At the beginning of camp, Johnny Maea was listed as the starter, with Olaseni the backup.

Biggest question:

QB: Will the winner be Jake Bentley or Cam Rising? Drew Lisk is also included on the chart as being on equal footing with the others, although it’s widely considered to be a two-man race. We likely won’t know who earned the job until pregame warmups Saturday.

Other observations:

LG: Keaton Bills is now considered on equal footing with Braeden Daniels for the starting spot, whereas he was listed as Daniels’ backup when camp opened.

RT: Jaren Kump is now on equal footing with Simi Moala for the top spot. At the beginning of camp, the pecking order was Moala the starter and Olaseni the backup.

RB: Head coach Kyle Whittingham has said the rushing attack will be a committee, and that is reflected in the depth chart, as Devin Brumfield and Jordan Wilmore are on equal footing. Ty Jordan and Micah Bernard will also be in the mix.

WR: The Utes lost some depth during camp with the transfer of Jaylen Dixon and the injury to Tyrone Young-Smith, but the core of Bryan Thompson, Solomon Enis, Britain Covey, Samson Nacua and Devaughn Vele is expected to be very good.

DEFENSE

No change from October:

LT: Hauati Pututau

RT: Viane Moala

Rover LB: Nephi Sewell

Mac LB: Devin Lloyd

Nickel: Malone Mataele

Newly named starters:

Left DE: Mika Tafua was the frontrunner at the beginning of camp but was still listed as on equal footing with Miki Suguturaga and Xavier Carlton. Tafua ultimately won the job.

Right DE: Maxs Tupai will be the starter, with Van Fillinger the backup. At the beginning of camp, it was a competition with them, Blake Kuithe and BYU transfer Devin Kaufusi.

Left CB: At the beginning of camp, Bronson Boyd was listed as the starter. It is now JaTravis Broughton, with Faybian Marks the backup.

Utah cornerback JaTravis Broughton (4) defends wide receiver Dylan Slavens (82) during practice in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020.
Utah Athletics

Right CB: Broughton was listed as the starter here at the beginning of camp, but highly-touted true freshman Clark Phillips III was moved to this spot, where he’ll start. Boyd — who entered the NCAA transfer portal — is the backup.

FS: R.J. Hubert was listed as the starter at the beginning of camp, but Whittingham said he’s still trying to make his way back from a torn ACL, so it is now Vonte Davis.

SS: Davis was listed here in October, but true freshman Nate Ritchie will now take the spot.

SPECIAL TEAMS

No change from October:

P: Ben Lennon

Holder: Ben Lennon

Snapper: Keegan Markgraf

KR: Britain Covey

PR: Britain Covey

Newly named starter:

Kickoffs: Jordan Noyes was listed as the starter at the beginning of camp, but BYU transfer Skyler Southam is now in that spot.

Utah kicker Jordan Noyes (67) lines up for a kick attempt during a scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.
Utah Athletics

Biggest question:

Kicker: Jadon Redding was listed as the starter at the beginning of camp, but he and Noyes are now listed on equal “footing” heading into the first game.