Hollywood, Calif. • The Utah football team must replace 16 players who went on to the NFL (eight draft picks, eight free-agent signings) while vying for the top spot in the Pac-12 South Division.

The Utes, coming off a 9-4 season, including 5-4 in the Pac-12, and an appearance in the Foster Farms Bowl, get back to work Friday with their first day of preseason camp.

Coach Kyle Whittingham, offensive lineman Salesi Uhatafe and defensive lineman Filipo Mokofisi spent the eve of training camp discussing the season's outlook with reporters during Pac-12 Media Days at the Hollywood & Highland Entertainment Center.

"I think we're ready," Mokofisi said. "I want to get the pads. I think everybody else wants to get the pads on and see what this team can do."

The Utes, picked second in the South in the preseason media poll, must rebuild an offensive line that lost four starters, including left tackle Garett Bolles, the 20th overall pick in the NFL draft.

The defensive backfield also lost four starters, including free safety and two-time All-Pac-12 selection Marcus Williams, a second-round draft pick.

The Utes also will have competition for the starting quarterback job with three players in the running going into camp. Troy Williams won the job last season as a junior college transfer who began his career at Washington, but sophomore Tyler Huntley and graduate transfer Cooper Bateman from Alabama will push him.

"It was a tight enough race where those three will continue to get reps, at least for the first week or two in fall camp," Whittingham said. "Then we've got to make a decision and get things paired down to two guys who are going to be getting all the reps and the one guy who is going to be the guy."

Uhatafe, a three-year starter, will anchor the offensive line as he shifts from right guard to right tackle. The Utes go into camp with Jordan Agasiva (right guard), Lo Falemaka (center), Darrin Paulo (left guard) and Jackson Barton (left tackle) slated as the starters. Agasiva joined the program as a junior college transfer.

"I think one of the biggest things was to try not to compare ourselves to last year's group," Uhatafe said. "I think going into this season, we're going to [do] a great job leading ourselves as a unit where we can make our name for ourselves without living in a shadow of last year's team."

While the Utes lost three starters on the defensive line in All-America defensive end Hunter Dimick and honorable mention All-Pac-12 honorees Pita Taumoepenu and Pasoni Tasini, they'll bring back defensive end Kyle Fitts, coming back off a season-ending injury last year, and all-conference defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei, as well as Mokofisi.

The defensive backfield will be the more pressing issue with both starting cornerbacks, starting nickleback and starting free safety gone. That leaves strong safety Chase Hansen as the lone returning starter.

Junior college transfer Corrion Ballard is poised to take over the free safety job, while competition on the corners will feature a bevy of returners such as Julian Blackmon, Nygel King, Casey Hughes and Tyrone Smith. Boobie Hobbs and Terrell Burgess also will compete for the nickle spot.

Incoming freshman Jaylon Johnson, a five-star recruit, and Javelin Guidry, a speedster who set the California high school state record in the 100 meters this past spring, likely will figure into the picture.

"We're very young, everybody knows that — JUCO transfers, freshmen," Mokofisi said about the defensive backfield. "It's going to be interesting to see how that goes during this camp, see who can play and who can contribute."