Utah finished the 2021 season, Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl appearance in tow, with a top-15 offense and a top-25 defense. That’s according to Bill Connelly’s SP+ system. The defense was physical and bruising, the kind you expect to see from a Kyle Whittingham-coached team. And after the season it sent Devin Lloyd to the Jacksonville Jaguars as a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Lloyd finished the year with a Pac-12-leading 22 tackles for loss. Mika Tafua had 13 on his own, the third-best mark in the league. No team in the conference had more sacks than Utah’s 42, and no team in the league had more TFLs than Utah’s 98. In fact, Arizona State finished second in both, a good 15 sacks and 24 TFLs shy of the Utes.

In terms of creating havoc, few were better than the Utes. They finished 12th nationally with a havoc rate (TFLs, passes defended, and forced fumbles) of 20.3% on defense.

As Utah looks forward to the 2022 season, it’ll need to replace Lloyd and Tafua and a few other pieces from the defense that helped it capture a first-ever Pac-12 championship.

But, as linebacker Karene Reid explains on a forthcoming podcast from SI’s AllUtes, the 2022 defense has the potential to be better than the 2021 side.

“I think we have the potential to be better than last year,” Reid said, according to AllUtes publisher Cole Bagley. Reid is hosting an AllUtes-exclusive podcast, with the first episode dropping on Tuesday. “I know that’s a bold statement to make but with the people we have coming back and the pieces we’re adding, we shouldn’t have a weak spot… we’ll be nasty.”

Reid played in 10 games last season for the Utes as a freshman, starting six at the Rover linebacker spot. He had 44 tackles, two TFLs, two pass breakups, a sack, and an interception.

His brother, Gabe, is joining him at Utah for the 2022 season after transferring from Stanford. Gabe Reid had 10 TFLs for the Cardinal a year ago, the sixth-best mark by a Pac-12 defender.

Utah has also added former Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate this offseason via the transfer portal.

The defense returns standout defensive linemen Van Fillinger and Junior Tafuna as well as cornerback Clark Phillips, an All-Pac-12 Second Team selection a season ago.

Utah begins its season on Sept. 3 against Florida on the road.