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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Breaking down Utah's 'D' and who makes it so good

Crank up the grills and get the projections going, game day is finally here!

It doesn't even matter who the opponent is, does it? It just feels great to kick off another football season.

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Utah's defense is supposed to be the team's strength once again. Here is a look at the defense, the movers, shakers and guys who need to prove themselves in the coming weeks.

Defensive line - Even with the loss of Junior Salt to a season-ending foot injury the line is the strength of the team. The Kruger brothers are solid and Trevor Reilly, who will play at end and linebacker, will be a blast to watch. Nothing more needs to be said about the talent of Star Lotulelei either.

The guys I am interested in seeing are Nate Fakahafua, the left end, and backup Tenny Palepoi, a JC transfer. Fakahafua looks stronger than ever at 6-3, 250 pounds. The sophomore is regarded as one of the team's all-around great athletes. It's time to see if he can be a big playmaker now that he has a year under his belt.

Linebackers - Keep an eye on Jared Norris and LT Filiaga, listed as co-starters at rover. Both are freshmen and have a lot of potential. This game will go a long ways in deciding which one we'll see a lot more of in the future.

At middle, watch sophomore V.J. Fehoko, he talks a big game and without a doubt is one of the most charismatic players on the team. But can all that charisma and talk lead to some big plays on the field? I know defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake loves his potential so don't be surprised if he develops into one of the Utes best players at creating big plays.

Jason Whittingham is another developing linebacker. The freshman is the nephew of Kyle Whittingham, but definitely earned his spot in the two-deep.

As for the corners, Mo Lee is solid, but I want to see who is going to emerge from the backups to help Lee and Ryan Lacy. From camp, Wykie Freeman made some nice plays so he could be that next guy.

The safeties are an interesting group with Brian Blechen out. Starter Eric Rowe is going to be a big-time player, but Tyron Morris-Edwards, Terrell Reese and Michael Walker all are expected to contribute. My hunch is that Reese, a 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore, will make himself noticed the most.

&n



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