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SALT LAKE CITY — With college football’s regular season over, it’s time to hand out the hardware for Utah’s three Division I programs.
Here's an unofficial, creative list of worthy recipients.
Coach of the Year: Matt Wells, Utah State. The rookie beat out the other two contenders in a landslide. Faced with the difficult challenge of replacing arguably the greatest coach in school history in Gary Andersen, Wells rewarded the administration’s prompt decision to give the former offensive coordinator his first head coach position.
In guiding the Aggies to an 8-5 record, Wells did an admirable job. Under the circumstances, he exceeded expectations. As Bronco Mendenhall and Kyle Whittingham can personally attest to, few teams manage to find success when they start three different quarterbacks in the same season.
In addition to losing the state’s best player, quarterback Chuckie Keeton, to a season-ending knee injury against BYU, the Aggies also lost several other starters to injury along the way. But Wells held the team together, shaking off a two-game losing streak and the benching of the first replacement for Keeton. On the strength of a great defense, Aggies went 7-2 during their first season in the Mountain West Conference.
Offensive Player of the Year:Taysom Hill, BYU.
The sophomore quarterback put up numbers that were simply too hard to ignore. In his first season as a starter, Hill rushed for 1,211 yards and passed for 2,645 yards and 19 touchdowns. He rushed for an eye-popping 259 yards against Texas, setting a record for a BYU quarterback that likely won’t ever be broken.
Hill’s potential over the next two seasons should excite offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who needed time to figure out the best way to utilize this incredible athlete. But at the same time, Hill needs to improve considerably, most especially in the passing game.
Perhaps the biggest reason Hill deserved this recognition is the lack of competition. Overall, this was a down season offensively for the state’s top three teams. The other candidates were BYU running back Jamaal Williams, Utah Sate running back Joey DeMartino and Utah receiver Dres Anderson.
Defensive Player of the Year: Trevor Reilly, Utah.
This was a tough decision, with several worthy candidates. But Reilly deserved it for his significant contributions on the field and for great leadership ability.
Reilly’s incredible season was diminished somewhat by Utah struggling through a second consecutive losing season. But the other Pac-12 coaches and NFL scouts are well aware of his talent. Reilly did whatever the Utah coaches asked of him, rotating between defensive end and linebacker all season. The versatility will serve him well as he goes into the NFL.
Off the field, Reilly was a true inspiration. The 25-year-old father played through the difficult situation of having a child dealing with cancer. It’s no coincidence he represented the team at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new football facility.
Other candidates include BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy and Utah State linebacker Jake Doughty.
Newcomer of the Year: Darell Garretson, Utah State.
Projected to redshirt his first season in Logan, Garretson was thrust into action after Keeton went down and the projected backup proved ineffective. With USU’s season slipping away, Garretson stepped in and won five consecutive games. He wasn’t spectacular but good enough.
Other candidates include Utah kicker Andy Phillips and BYU cornerback Rob Daniel.
Stunner of the Year: Utah 27, Stanford 21.
Nothing else needs to be said on this result. It may be another 100 years before we see a stunner like the Utes beating the mighty Cardinal.
So there you have, a rather average season for college football in Utah. Let's hope next year will be better.