DB Eric Weddle

2004 Statistics

Coach: Kyle Whittingham
1st year
2004 Record: 12-0
at Arizona WON 23-6
at Utah State WON 48-6
at New Mexico WON 28-7
UNLV WON 63-28
at San Diego State WON 51-28
at Wyoming WON 45-28
vs. Pittsburgh WON 35-7

2004 Final Rankings
AP-4, Coaches-5, BCS-6

2005 Outlook

We all know the storied sequence of how new coach Kyle Whittingham got his opportunity (Zook to Illinois meant Meyer to Florida, leaving the Utah job open). Some say he got it "by default", but to anyone who says that, we say his abilities and contributions legitimately earned Kyle his new hat, and that any defensive continuity will be the key to keeping Utah's momentum going. It won't get them back into the BCS, but remaining a top 25 power should be enough of an accomplishment that major programs should now realize how annually "on par" Utah is with them.

But we all must note how the offensive coffers have been literally cleared - Heisman candidate QB Alex Smith, Meyer, QB-coach Dan Mullen, offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, top rusher Marty Johnson, top two receivers Steve Savoy and Paris Warren, as well as two major starters on the line, are all gone. These losses, along with their shoe-in QB prospect, who, in the eleventh hour, "uncommitted" and went with Meyer and Mullen to Florida, represent the largest wholesale clearance any I-A team endures this offseason. But Meyer-Sanford attracted/recruited an amazing amount of potential talent (that has stayed), and they coached the offensive prospects with their unique insights so that there is now enough of a solid foundation left for Utah to still be able to move the ball well. "The pieces are in place and my charge is to keep things going in the right direction."

The new plan is basically the old plan - they will call the triple option 30-50%, and keep the run: pass ratio at 60:40. WRs get plenty of carries in this system, and role players change just as teams are baited into believing what the Utes seem to be selling. Utah was one of five teams that both ran for 200 per game while also passing it at least 250 per game, and this balance is exactly what Whittingham again wants.

Luckily, the best defensive opponents come last in the schedule. Ute fans will cringe at the prospects, for without Meyer's magic, losses will come. But the vital nature of the team's character is the main component the new staff has to assure continues. There can be no letdown from the 35-7 Fiesta Bowl drubbing of Pittsburgh that capped their 12-0 season, or it will be "square one" next spring once again. We know the right coach is in place. Now, let's just see how long it takes to get the right QB and offensive coordinator, too.

From their "Do's and Don'ts for Utah Boosters" to their excellent "Academic Support Services", this is a program run right, and no team more deserves permanent placement amongst I-A's best. But that honor is earned, so this watershed year will tell much about the tier in which Ute football soon resides.

Projected 2005 record: 9-2
OL Jesse Boone
QB - 3 DL - 3.5
RB - 3 LB - 3
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Brian Johnson, 21-14-1, 142 yds., 1 TD

Rushing: Quentin Ganther,109 att., 654 yds., 2 TD

Receiving: John Madsen, 27 rec., 377 yds., 5 TD

Scoring: David Carroll, 5-5 FG, 44-44 PAT, 59 pts.

Punting: None

Kicking: David Carroll, 5-5 FG, 44-44 PAT, 59 pts.

Tackles: Spencer Toone, 115 tot., 40 solo

Sacks: Marquess Ledbetter, Steve Fiftia, 4.5 each

Interceptions: Eric Weddle, 4 for 34 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Justin Walker, 8 ret., 32.6 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Eric Weddle, 20 ret., 10.5 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Marty Johnson-RB, Paris Warren-WR, Chris Kemoeatu-OG, Makai Aalona-OT, David Carroll-K, Alex Smith-QB (NFL), Steve Savoy-WR (NFL)
DEFENSE: Sione Pouha-DT, Jonathan Fanene-DE, Tommy Hackenbruck-MLB, Corey Dodds-SLB, Bo Nagahi-CB, Gerald Fletcher-CB, Morgan Scalley-FS, Matt Kovacevich-P

Urban Meyer's defection also included those of QB's coach Dan Mullen and top-prospect Josh Portis, so the void left by Alex Smith leaving early is compounded and new coach Kyle Whittingham has made this Utah's first priority. Promising 18-year old soph Brian Johnson is everything Smith was - fast, smart, and especially accurate with good decision-making skills - but needs time to emerge with magic-man Mullen gone. Expectations for Johnson are high, though, and it isn't just wishful thinking that has Ute fans expecting Johnson to deliver early and often. Johnson is the only scholarship QB, for now, and the job is his. Come fall, the two-deep here will change as 6'4" Brett Ratliff is allowed to start practicing. Already projected as the number two guy since he was so successful as a JUCO player (all-conference at Butte), Ratliff will bring his drop-back style into the pro-sets still used. Whittingham confirmed, "We feel the quarterbacks we signed will add to the competition at the position. But right now Brian is our quarterback." Walk-on Chris Sokugawa, No.2 for now, will be bumped back once Ratliff arrives, and then Kevin Dunn is another bigger pocket-passing recruit whose presence should relegate Sokugawa's ample talents back to the scout team. Not as strong as it could be, this unit will eventually surprise, but that will take time that passes only through some struggles and pain. Changing the trigger-puller too often will definitely up heave any flow this offense can establish, so sticking with Johnson may occur for extended periods that Ute fans may want to soon forget. But we think he will shine rather quickly and make fans realize there is life after Smith.

Running Back
In the triple-option sets that will often occur here, role players have to emerge from a group with talent, but there is little experience outside of a few. Senior Quinton Ganther is a natural athlete with great hands, but a real bruiser at heart who can both slash through holes as well as run over LBs while between the tackles. Ganther's upside comes now as his 6.0 per carry rate is tested as the top back. Mike Liti is bigger and faster than Quinton, and as a sophomore, he is their future, so they will "rush" this pledge to get him involved from season's start. This will remain a one back team with scat-back Joseph Johnson a good third-down (or H-back type), and Raynold Stowers also too fast not to see time. Stowers' decent size means he could be another dimension regularly seen in seasons to come, so expect reps for him when Quinton needs air. Coach says two from this year's class are strong, so depth here is just waiting for chances to displace the incumbents. This unit will be strong, just not as statistically so as with Smith.

This unit was looking decimated before Travis LaTendressa was granted another season. His solid efforts go over the middle and deep equally as well, as does 6'5" classmate John Madsen. These two become the go-to guys for now, and smaller RS frosh Brent Casteel will be ready to shift gears as a multi-faceted starting H-back. Thomas Huff will use his size and speed in the trickery employed, but he could quickly find recruit Marquis Wilson the next target coaches test for that elusive fourth-receiver spot instead of him. Though high on Wilson, the assignments will remain open until fall, with top athletes being placed wherever needed. There are others, so the corps goes as deep as needed. This unit will reemerge after early struggles to hit its stride midseason, precisely as Johnson gets his feet underneath him, so to speak.

Tight End
Under Meyer, this position was seldom used for ball-handling purposes. Expect a reemergence with Blake Burdette able to handle all assignments here. 280-lb. Willie Sao presents much more girth, and he too will utilize speed to get wherever for whichever of his many skills are needed. A strong unit that doesn't go deep, expect to see more of these guys downfield.

Offensive Line
Senior converted-LT Jesse Boone, all-MWC second team in his first year at center, has great footwork and energy for his size. But Boone's leadership and intelligence will be the motivating factors needed to head this line. Younger brother Jason will use his quickness to man the right outside spot, and the sophomore has proven he will be solid in scant play last campaign. Tavo Tupola also has smarts and vision, so his steady improvement at the left tackle spot has proven as effective as when the elder Boone was there. JUCO-transfer David Dirkmaat has adjusted well to starting on the inside (left), so the core is solid here. Another junior from the JUCO ranks is newbie Paul Soliai, last classes' lone four-star recruit, and just as big Steve Dahl will secure several experienced reserves who make this a deceptively deep unit. A strong result will come from the coordinated efforts these well-conditioned bigmen will achieve, so roll-outs and play-calling based on deception will ensue.

Many questions have arisen since Meyer took Mullen with him, and ex-coordinator Sanford left for UNLV. But there will be little change with new guy Andy Ludwig taking over - balance and creativity (hopefully) will again be attained. QB Brian Johnson will take some time to achieve to Smith's level, but his speed, accuracy and decision-making will make many believe that this offense can still accomplish anything. The strong line will again grade highly while handling any on comers, so the ball-handlers will be able to carry out their triple-option assignments for optimal effect(s). Coaches say that the revamping means anyone good enough to play will eventually find himself assigned - their goal is to make sure the best athletes are on the field. Any delay in productivity here seems to be temporary and will have little overall impact, for most mid-level teams would love to be this stacked when regrouping. Meyer & Co.'s recruiting efforts are to pay the dividends needed for Utah to get over his departure, so his leaving becomes a wash in many ways that won't equal the huge down time expected. Expect little, just don't be surprised when the juggernaut keeps flowing here (ostensibly, not as statistically viable, but close by year's end).


RB Quinton Ganther


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Brian Johnson-So (6-2, 203) Danny Southwick-Jr (6-2, 220)
TB Quinton Ganther-Sr (5-10, 217) Darryl Poston-Sr (5-10, 191)
WR Travis LaTendresse-Sr (6-1, 194) Thomas Huff-So (6-4, 207)
WR John Madsen-Sr (6-5, 220) Fano Tagovailoa-Jr (6-0, 205)
WR Brian Hernandez-Jr (6-0, 183) Brent Casteel-Fr (5-10, 192)
TE Willie Sao-Sr (6-3, 280) Chad Jacobsen-Sr (6-4, 250)
OT Tavo Tupola-Jr (6-4, 290) Mitch Arquette-Jr (6-4, 316)
OG David Dirkmaat-Sr (6-7, 311) Kyle Gunther-So (6-4, 292)
C Jesse Boone-Sr (6-5, 303) Andrew Johnson-Sr (6-2, 308)
OG Eric Pettit-Jr (6-4, 300) Robert Conley-Fr (6-3, 327)
OT Jason Boone-So (6-3, 283) Jason Voss-Jr (6-3, 278)
K Dan Beardall-Sr (6-0, 198) Bryan Borreson-Sr (5-10, 186)



Defensive Line
Senior Steve Fifita, an NC.net third-team all-American NG, teams with classmate Marquess Ledbetter to well-anchor this line. With practically identical stat lines, Fifita, an ex-FB, is a weight room demon who will assuredly hurt any foes not willing to double-team him, while rush end Ledbetter gives the blues as he contains opposing RBs in their own backfields. Idaho-transfer Kelly Tavalou will take over at tackle, and depth behind him makes the inside secure with experience, girth, and push. RS frosh Pate Moleni is so quick off of the other end that he is slated to start without ever having played a down. There are enough big, quick linemen waiting their respective turns that fresh legs and strong results will continue to flow here. Realize that this unit is/was head man Whittingham's specialty, and he has brought back long-time assistant Gary Anderson from being head coach at Southern Utah to keep any momentum here viable. Anderson worked seven of his last eight seasons here with linemen, so any expanded duties as coordinator will mimic Whittingham's path, and overlapping philosophies mean there will be no drop off here.

Spencer Toone is the engine that runs this defense. He is everywhere - except on the field until fall after his shoulder surgery, and Toone will be the incumbent of this corps. Toone runs a 4.47-second 40, so his prowess is felt by foes in all corners of the field (also returns kicks in a pinch). Fellow-senior Grady Marshall is the middle man who plays the run about as well as any major-conferenced LB; his penetration, evidenced through his three blocked kicks, means that he is a hole-plugger worth his weight in Crimson. Converted-DB Kyle Brady also is sidelined from shoulder surgery until fall, so new guys like junior JUCO-transfer Reggie Turner and Afa Garrigan will get their chances. With the loss of two starters, the injuries to supposed-replacements Marshall and Brady will give many practice reps to the unproven talent stacked and waiting here, so this will quickly again be a deep unit. Speed here amongst these well-sized bodies means the bigger non-cons won't have that combined advantage anymore - another Meyer recruiting bump realized still after his departure.

Defensive Back
Junior all-MWC SS Eric Weddle now heads what just was the 24th-ranked pass efficiency defense, but three starters gone means this nubile crew has its work cut out. Weddle brings the whole package - he can fly (4.4 speed), hit hard, and think on the run as he has played QB and RB, so he knows what is happening and where to direct his guys. Classmate Casey Evans really shined well in his many backup appearances last year, so he inherits the other safety spot. Ryan Smith plays much bigger than his 5'9" size would insinuate, but this third-fastest Ute (4.41) was solid enough to start in his freshman year. Expect even more from this already strong, lockdown corner. Senior Eugene Oates has the other corner spot, but has not started until now. The multiple sets and schemes run back here (Whittingham was safeties coach, too) mean talented DBs in mass will be shuffled in and out so they can find the correct personnel for the right call(s). The speed back here will be rested so it has legs when fourth quarters roll around. Look for this usually competent unit to keep the play in front of them until they can all learn to follow Weddle's lead, then the corners can press more to force the action into the middle so Weddle and Evans can clean up.

New head coach Kyle Whittingham was Meyer's left-hand man, orchestrating the dirty work on defense that won them the BCS upset they earned. The job he did on Texas A&M (Reggie McNeal), North Carolina and Pittsburgh (Tyler Palko) shows you why continuity on this side of the ball is no worry. Whittingham's units, for ten years, have always finished in the top third nationally, with 2000's an actual top 10 D. (We'll never forget his 10-7 losing effort vs. Michigan in the Big House 9/21/02.) Complimented by new coordinator Gary Anderson's focus on the line, there is no excuse from a coaching standpoint for this unit not to be excellent, regardless of experience and/or losses. These Utes don't reflect the usual "MWC size issues", so another special unit will be built that makes any level of foe fear them. The run-stopping will again thrive inside, forcing teams to go around Fifita and Marshall. Early foes may be able to exploit the young rush ends (over pursuit), but near misses turn into TFLs and sacks by midseason as the LBs are allowed to (run) blitz once the DBs can be left alone. It will all take time to come together, but once it does, this D will hum nicely together and swarm, swarm, swarm. These guys will eventually be good enough to win games that seem out of reach with the possible margins on offense.


DL Steve Fifita


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Martail Burnett-So (6-3, 235) Alex Puccinelli-So (6-1, 220)
DT Steve Fifita-Sr (6-0, 322) Bryce Scanlon-Fr (6-2, 270)
NG Kelly Talavou-Jr (6-2, 319) Kite Afeaki-Sr (6-2, 285)
DE Marquess Ledbetter-Sr (6-2, 265) Pate Moleni-Fr (6-3, 269)
SLB Malakai Mokofisi-So (6-2, 225) Kyle Brady-So (6-1, 230)
MLB Grady Marshall-Sr (6-0, 230) Joe Jiannoni-So (6-0, 230)
ROV Spencer Toone-Sr (6-2, 235) Loma Olevao-So (6-1, 232)
CB Ryan Smith-So (5-10, 165) Adarrious Ross-Fr (5-9, 163)
CB Eugene Oates-Sr (5-11, 183) Shaun Harper-Jr (5-9, 180)
SS Eric Weddle-Jr (6-0, 200) Antonio Young-Sr (5-11, 195)
FS Casey Evans-Jr (6-0, 198) Tim Harris-Sr (6-0, 190)
P Louie Sakoda-Fr (5-10, 180) Dan Beardall-Sr (6-1, 193)




Bryan Borreson seemingly has "straightened up" from his 2002 problems in the 40-49 yard range (0-of-4), and has gone 13-of-16 overall since. He has the big leg, and without Meyer and Smith, look for longer tries (Utah didn't have to try one from beyond 36) to be the norm again. KO coverage will remain strong as hungry back-seven defensemen vie for time.

Senior Dan Beardall has awaited his chance, and now the big punter gets his chance after filling in as a PK, another talent he can display on call. Beardall has a 42 per punt average from prep, so we expect close to that so this position loses little. Net results soared as they officially covered just eight punt tries, but with more punts, this number should become more earthly.

Return Game
Eric Weddle averages over 10 per punt return, and Justin Walker has ample depth behind him to assure he can again average close to 32+ per try on KOs. The speed of Quinton Ganther and Mike Liti also will be available, so this is again a strong unit.