Utah finished 16th nationally last year in SP+. That was thanks to the 14th-ranked offense and the 22nd-ranked defense. A sure-fire top-25 team in a model that took the eye test out of the equation and just looked at strength. SP+ also charts special teams efficiency. The Utes ranked 111th in that.

One particular pain point: the punting game. Head coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters this week he feels better about that spot heading into the new year.

“It’s much better,” Whittingham said. “We’re doing a much better job with the football. Our new guy Jack (Bouwmeester) is really hitting the ball well, he’s got a strong leg. We should be much improved in that area.”

Utah averaged the ninth-worst punt average in the FBS (38.8 yards per attempt) and was one of only nine teams at the FBS level to give up multiple punt returns for a touchdown. Between Cameron Peasley and Michael Williams, three punts were blocked while a fourth would have been if not for a penalty.

Peasley transferred out of the program following the spring, presumably leaving the job to Williams.

But then Bouwmeester announced in June he’d be joining the program as a scholarship punter for the new year. A native of Victoria, Australia, the 6-foot-2 PuntFactory Australia product originally committed to Michigan State back in 2019 and then left the program to return to Australia in 2020.

His arrival in Salt Lake City has bumped Williams to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, Whittingham said.

“We’ll see what happens,” Whittingham said. “We’d ideally like to have one guy do all the duties.”