The head coach establishes the identity of a team, and rarely has that been more evident than with the transition of the University of Utah football program from Urban Meyer to Kyle Whittingham. Meyer's spread-option offense produced first-round picks Alex Smith and Jordan Gross, while Whittingham's defensive background has seen Eric Weddle, Paul Kruger, Sean Smith, Koa Misi and most recently Star Lotulelei taken in the first two rounds. But that might be reversing course once again, as the Utes have some intriguing names on the other side of the ball to remember this autumn.
Top senior prospects
LB Brian Blechen: Coaches decided to move Blechen to linebacker from safety, where he started 30 games over the last three seasons, because of a plethora of options on the back end. A ferocious hitter, Blechen is very instinctive but won't blow anyone away with his athleticism. He was suspended for the first three games of the 2012 season after testing positive for marijuana.
OT Jeremiah Poutasi: Poutasi will move to left tackle after starting 10 games on the right side as a true freshman. Set to turn 19 on Aug. 7, he already possesses the size and strength (6-foot-5, 345 pounds) of a seasoned veteran. A four-star recruit, Poutasi had scholarship offers from most Pac-12 programs.
WR Dres Anderson: Former NFL player "Flipper" Anderson's son is hoping improved quarterback play will allow him to show off his big-play ability on a more regular basis. Dres managed nearly identical stat lines each of the last two seasons (23 catches for 355 yards and three touchdowns in 2011; 36 for 365 and three scores in 2012) for one of the worst passing attacks in the nation, but he can take the top off the defense at any time.
Three must-see games of 2013
Aug. 29 vs. Utah State: Aggies center Tyler Larsen is the lynchpin of a proficient ground game, opening holes for dual-threat quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Keeton's mobility should offer a good indication of how well Brian Blechen can move sideline-to-sideline.
Sept. 21 at BYU: The last edition of the Holy War until 2017, Jeremiah Poutasi should see plenty of Cougars outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy. It is a contrast of styles, as Poutasi looks to lock up and overpower defenders, while Van Noy relies on his speed coming off the edge.
Oct. 3 vs. UCLA: With senior outside linebacker Anthony Barr looking like a sure-fire top-five draft pick, this should be the toughest assignment of Poutasi's college career. On a Thursday night in front of a national TV audience, he can make a name at Barr's expense.