Utah brought in several promising freshman and junior college transfers to shore up key positions on both sides of the ball after graduating several stars at the end of last season. The Utes feature an equal mix of talented veterans and new faces in 2016.
Which players new to the program have a chance to be a rising star this season? Here are five Utes who seemed destined to make a name for themselves before the season is done:
1. Troy Williams, QB
Consistent quarterback play was an issue at times during Travis Wilson's four years as Utah's starting quarterback. The Utes are hopeful Williams can pump some new life into an anemic passing offense (180.0 yards per game) that ranked 11th in the Pac-12 last season.
Williams has the credentials to be a breakout star. After transferring from Washington, he spent last season at Santa Monica (Calif.) College. Williams made good on his second chance there, throwing for 2,750 yards and 31 touchdowns with just four interceptions on 180-of-265 passing.
If Williams can do similar things against Pac-12 teams, the loss of running back Devontae Booker and Wilson might be easier to overcome.
2. Garett Bolles, OL
Utah already had a talented and experienced group up front – with four starters returning on the offensive line. Bolles makes it even stronger and has wasted no time inserting himself into the mix for a starting spot.
The Snow (Utah) College transfer and five-star recruit is listed as a co-starter with Jackson Barton and Sam Tevi at both tackle positions entering the season opener against Southern Utah. He came to the Utes as the top JUCO recruit in the nation and has lived up to his potential throughout fall camp. Bolles has acclimated quickly to Utah's offensive schemes.
3. Kavika Luafatasaga, LB
Landing Luafatasaga during the offseason was a huge deal for a Utah defense forced to replace its top two linebackers from a year ago. He flipped from Ole Miss to the Utes on National Signing Day in February and gives the team another big, tough linebacker who can make big plays in the front seven.
Luafatasaga has battled his way into the mix at rover linebacker. The Arizona Western College transfer is currently a co-starter with Cody Barton. Utah envisions him filling a linebacker/defensive end hybrid role made famous by past stars like Trevor Reilly, Nate Orchard and Paul Kruger.
4. Zach Moss, RB
A strong running game will always be Utah's bread and butter. Not surprisingly, the backfield is loaded with talent. Joe Williams is set to be the team's primary ball carrier to open the season and Troy McCormick has carved out a spot as the no. 2 back. With that said, Moss is definitely in the mix to get carries this fall.
The freshman back intrigues Ute coaches with his size and power running ability. Moss is a potential workhorse back in the mold of Booker. That's a good sign for a Utah offense that relies on running it down an opponent's throat. Moss could be Utah's running back of the future quite soon.
5. Bradlee Anae, DL
Cracking the two-deep on Utah's defensive line isn't easy for a freshman to do, but Anae has done just that. The freshman from Hawaii earned a backup spot behind Kylie Fitts at left end coming out of fall camp. After adding weight in the offseason, he has the size (6-3, 243) and skills to contribute right away to a defensive line that ranks as one of the best in the nation.
Anae possesses enough speed coming off the edge to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. It won't be surprising to see him receive meaningful playing time throughout his freshman season.
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.
(Top photo courtesy of www.utahutes.com)