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Utes football team has high hopes

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - The Utah football team was picked to finish 5th in the Pac-12 South, but the team has higher expectations than that.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - The Utes football team was understandably picked to finish 5th in the six-team Pac-12 Conference South Division. Afterall, Utah has won just 7 of 18 conference games in its first two years in the conference.

"We're certainly not where we want to be," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "But we knew it was going to be challenging."

At Pac-12 Media Day, the Utes, which open training camp on Monday, expressed higher hopes than that.

"We have the potential to win the South," said senior linebacker Trevor Reilly. "I'm not predicting that we're going to win it. I'm just saying that if things go right, there's some luck involved with injuries and game situations, I think we can win the South."

First things first, though. How about becoming bowl eligible. The Utes snapped its 9-game bowl game streak last season.

"Getting back to a bowl game is obviously our number one goal as a team," said senior tight end Jake Murphy. "We want to get back to a championship caliber team that Utah was and that Utah has been in the past."

"During the bowl games, I got several texts from players expressing their frustration and disappointment for not being there," said Whittingham. "If anything, that's going to be one of the motivating factors for us this fall."

How do the Utes get there? First, they need to stay healthy, but they also need better production from the most important position on the team.

"Quarterback play," said Whittingham. "We have not been able to start and finish the season with the same quarterback since 2008 with Brian Johnson. So, getting some continuity, some consistency and better production at that position has got to be something that we get done this year."

Sophomore Travis Wilson enters training camp as the starter, but co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson was brought in to energize an offense that was ranked 105th out of 120 teams last year.

While most experts do not consider the Utes to be a serious contender for the Rose Bowl, Pac-12 coaches are not writing Utah off just yet.

"They've been so close and have played everybody tough," said Stanford head coach Davis Shaw. "They've been able to win some, haven't been able to win some other ones. But they're in a lot of games people don't think they're going to be in, particularly at home."

"Coach Whittingham and his staff have done a great job," said USC head coach Lane Kiffin. "When you play them, you're going to have to play really well as we've seen the last couple years because they're coached so well."

"It's a well-coached, good football team," added Oregon State head coach Mike Riley. "They've established themselves as a good program."

Now it's time to prove it once again. 
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