Red All Over: ESPN quantifies Utah running back Zack Moss’ value, and it’s high

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes running back Zack Moss (2) runs between Weber State Wildcats safety Jawian Harrison Jr. (2) and Weber State Wildcats cornerback Keilan Benjamin (10) as the University of Utah Utes host the Weber State Wildcats, Thursday Aug. 30, 2018 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

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Utah’s Zack Moss is the most valuable running back who’s returning to college football in 2019, according to an ESPN analysis.

The Utes went 3-2 in the games Moss missed last season — beating Oregon, Colorado and BYU and losing to Washington and Northwestern. His absence was noticeable, based on ESPN’s formula that “quite simply tries to measure the effect of each player on every play.” That includes pass protection, in the case of a running back.

The timing of the analysis is meaningful, considering that Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has not updated Moss’ status this month, citing the team’s policy of discussing only long-term injuries. In the practice photos the school distributes, Moss last appeared Aug. 5.

They’re former Utes now, but it was worth a drive to Logan to catch up with Siaosi Mariner, Caleb Repp and Nick Heninger, graduate transfers playing for ex-Utah assistant coach Gary Andersen at Utah State.

Ute offensive lineman Nick Ford, always a good interview subject, promised his group will make a good impression when the season starts.

Tribune columnist Gordon Monson got to the heart of defensive lineman Leki Fotu’s story, as he does so well.

The biggest news from Saturday’s final scrimmage of preseason camp was UCLA transfer Andrew Strauch’s being named Utah’s No. 1 kicker.

It was a big deal Monday when Utah was ranked No. 14 in the preseason AP Top 25, the program’s highest-ever position in August.

Linebackers coach Colton Swan is credited with helping his players develop this month. Like the offensive linemen, though, they’ll have to prove it on the field.

Whittingham and the program’s support staff have had fun announcing the awarding of scholarships to walk-on players. Check out the videos accompanying this story.

The Ute women’s basketball program received good news this week when the NCAA granted forward Daneesha Provo a sixth year of eligibility. That means her career didn’t end with a knee injury in early January, and that’s nice for both Provo and the team.

And here’s some major recruiting news for the Ute men’s basketball program, with the commitment of Wasatch Academy forward Caleb Lohner.

I had some fun with the angle of the Utah women’s soccer season preview, asking Whittingham what he thought of a Utah team opening the season against Clemson and Alabama on the road. Whittingham recoiled when radio reporter Patrick Kinahan then asked him about his team’s potentially meeting those opponents, which could happen only in the College Football Playoff. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.

Other voices

Christopher Kamrani of The Athletic looks into the speed-driven recruiting philosophy that has built Utah’s secondary.

Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner examines the conference’s media strategy in part 1 of a series.

Joe Coles of the Deseret News profiles Ute center Orlando Umana.

Around campus

• The Utah women’s volleyball team will have a Red-White match at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Huntsman Center. Admission is free. The Utes will stage the Utah Classic on Aug. 30-31, bringing in Saint Mary’s, No. 7 Kentucky and No. 23 Cal Poly in a round-robin event. All three teams competed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

• Randon Hostert, an incoming freshman pitcher in the Ute baseball program, was a key member of the championship team in the American Legion World Series that ended Wednesday. Hostert pitched for the Idaho Falls (Idaho) Bandits, who finished 61-6 this summer. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in June but didn’t sign a contract, sticking with Utah. Hostert received the tournament’s Bob Feller Pitching Award.

• Janet Koch, who recently completed her college tennis career at Kansas, was hired as an assistant to new coach Ric Mortera with the Utes women’s program. Koch was part of a No. 5-ranked doubles team for the Jayhawks.