SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Playing against a defense as good as Utah’s day in and day out can be frustrating for the offense at times, but should eventually pay big dividends.
“It’s a big advantage because we don’t see a defense like this all year,” said quarterback Tyler Huntley. “This is probably the best defense we’re going to go against all year, so it’s great.”
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson rarely gets balls thrown his way in games, and sometimes Huntley stays away from testing him in practice.
“He knows, he’s got a job to keep too, so I mean,” Johnson said with a laugh. “No, I’m just playing. It’s fun going against him because he knows sometimes when he does throw where he has to put the ball in order for me not to get it.”
So does the defense ever ease up on the offense?
“Not at all,” said defensive tackle Leki Fotu. “We can’t let up on them. Going against one of the best defenses in the country, that’s just a benefit. For them for them to go against us everyday, they should dominate coming into the season.”
What makes this defense so special in the defensive line. Led by three seniors in Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu and John Penisini, this could be one of the best groups in school history, which is saying a lot.
“I would say two things, talent, just raw talent, and then depth,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “We have probably nine or ten guys that will be ready to play and contribute and not have much drop off. So that’s a luxury.”
In addition to the three seniors, who are all most likely bound for the NFL,the Utes also have the Maxs Tupai, Pita Tonga and Mika Tafua, who could start on many teams in the Pac-12.
“I think it’s because of the experience that we have and the guys coming back, one and two deep,” added Fotu. “Just the experience that we have playing with each other and the chemistry that we have.”
Anae led the Pac-12 in sacks last year and could leave Utah as the school’s all-time leader. Anae currently has 17 career sacks with the Hunter Dimick’s school record of 29.5 within site.
“Yes, that’s an actual goal of mine,” said Anae. “I want to leave this school with a mark and leave my legacy here. I didn’t come here just to be a regular guy. I’m trying to collect some records on my way out. They’re all the same mentality, blue collar, just put your head down and work.”
Anae and Fotu could have left after last season for the NFL, but they had unfinished business at Utah.
“I just want to finish what I started,” Anae said. “I want another shot at that title.”
“That just says that we really care about the program,” said Fotu. “It’s something to give back to the program and to our fans.”