Pac-12 Football Media Days continued at the Hollywood & Highland Entertainment Center in Los Angeles, California on Thursday morning with representatives from Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford, Washington State, USC and Utah taking to the podium.
We previously covered everything we learned from ASU head coach Todd Graham’s press conference, so we’ll omit the Sun Devils from this report.
Last Season: 9-4 overall, (5-4 Pac-12)
Preseason Pac-12 Media Poll: Second place
The Utes got off to a hot start last season, winning eight of their first ten games and managing a narrow victory over star quarterback Sam Darnold and USC. They faltered a bit down the stretch, but it seems that the media remains fairly confident in Kyle Whittingham’s program. They were picked to land in second place in the South, above a re-tooled UCLA squad and last year’s division champions in Colorado.
Whittingham has now completed three consecutive seasons with at least nine wins, an achievement he believes is tightly connected to the Utes’ recruiting prowess.
“Our coaches have done a great job of targeting the right guys and bringing the right guys into the program,” Whittingham said in front of members of the media Thursday morning. “And that’s manifested in the fact that in the last three or four years we’ve had several guys move on to the NFL. That’s usually the best barometer, and that’s the key to longevity and success in college football.”
Utah has sent several players to the NFL in recent years, but they’ve also retained and added some key players that should keep them competitive in the near future. Offensive lineman Salesi Uhtafe and quarterback Troy Williams highlight the retuning offensive weapons, but the Utes have also added former Oregon Ducks wideout Darren Carrington.
Carrington was dismissed by Oregon for off-the-field issues in early July and singed with Utah Thursday morning. Whittingham was vocal about his decision to add the explosive playmaker.
“It was a decision that was based on a lot of research and talking to a lot of people,” Whittingham said. “I’m big on attitude, a kid’s attitude. He comes from a solid background with a great family and appears to me to be a fantastic kid.”
Last season: 10-3 overall, (7-2 Pac-12)
Preseason Pac-12 Media Poll: First place
The Trojans finished as the hottest team in college football last year, emerging victorious in eight consecutive games to close out the season. The polls have bought in to the Trojans’ return to glory, picking them to not only win the south division, but the conference championship as well.
Other than on the offensive line - and a couple NFL-bound receivers - Clay Helton and company are returning everyone that made last year’s team so great, except this time, they’ll be even more experienced.
The Trojans retained numerous offensive weapons and no-doubt added many more with the number five recruiting class int he country, but no player will be as important to USC than Heisman frontrunner Sam Darnold.
Darnold attracted a heavier media swarm than any coach or player at media day Thursday morning and was often asked about expectations for himself and the team coming into the season.
“I think that our expectations are always going to be higher than the expectations that anyone from the outside has of us,” Darnold said. “I think that’s something special about our team.”