2011 Utah Preview – Offense
Utah QB Jordan Wynn
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Utah Ute Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
Utah Preview |
2011 Utah Defense |
Utah Depth Chart
What You Need To Know: The big news on offense is the hiring of coordinator Norm Chow, a coaching legend in the Beehive State. Not only does he have a long track record of success, but he's also had stints with USC and UCLA of the old Pac-10. The venerable assistant is scrapping the Utes' mainstay system of late, the spread, in favor of a multiple attack. Utah will have more pro-style looks, employing a fullback and a tight end. Success hinges on the healthy return of QB Jordan Wynn, a late-season casualty to a shoulder injury in 2010. The junior is a winner and a deft distributor, particularly to top receiver DeVonte Christopher. The new backs competing for playing time will need to wear name tags. Harvey Langi is a true freshman, John White is in his first year out of junior college, and Thretton Palamo comes to Chow by way of the Utah rugby team. The front wall is a mixed bag of stability at tackle and center, and uncertainty at guard and off the bench
Star of the offense: Junior QB Jordan Wynn
Passing: Jordan Wynn
186-299, 2,334 yds, 17 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: Griff Robles
17 carries, 124 yds, 0 TDs
Receiving: DeVonte Christopher
39 catches, 660 yds, 6 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LG Sam Brenner
Unsung star on the rise: Junior C Tevita Stevens
Best pro prospect: Senior RT Tony Bergstrom
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bergstrom, 2) Wynn, 3) Junior WR DeVonte Christopher
Strength of the offense: Starting quarterback, the tackles, pass protection, red zone conversions
Weakness of the offense: Unproven backfield, quarterback depth, depth at wide receiver, the guards, turnovers
State of the Unit: The Utes didn't quite get a firm grasp on their quarterback situation in the spring. The system is new, the coordinator is new, and the starter sat out the entire session to heal. Suffice it to say, August will be a key month for the position. The program has excelled at developing capable, nimble passers over the past decade, producing the likes of Alex Smith, Brian Johnson, and Brett Ratliff since 2004. While depth is going to be an issue in 2011, injuries aside, Utah is confident it'll continue to get quality play from behind center.
All eyes this summer will be on the right shoulder of Jordan Wynn , which required an operation during the offseason. The junior missed three games to injury a year ago, yet still went 186-of-299 for 2,334 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. While only 6-1 and 201 pounds, he exudes maturity and leadership, going 11-4 since winning the job as a true freshman in 2009. More of a touch passer than a bomber, the all-conference contender throws an accurate, catchable ball when not forced to roam around the pocket.
How confident is the program that 6-3, 220-pound Tyler Shreve has franchise potential? It already has the true freshman slotted in at No. 2 after shifting his main competitor, Griff Robles to linebacker. Shreve graduated early from Redlands East Valley (Calif.) High School in order to take part in spring drills. More than anything else, he impressed the coaches with his arm strength and confidence to the ball into a tight window. Jon Hayes , the 6-0, 212-pound product of Butte (Calif.) College joins the fray in the summer.
Watch Out For … Wynn's recovery. Considering the lack of experience around Wynn, if he's less than full-strength, Utah's bar for 2011 comes down considerably. The good news is that he's recovering well from last December's shoulder surgery, and is on schedule to be at 100% by the time Montana State visits on Sept. 1.
Strength: Veteran leadership. In Wynn, the Utes boast a proven player and the kind of quarterback who can deliver big wins for the program. Just two years removed from high school, he already has 15 career starts under his belt, and has the respect and confidence of the teammates around him.
Weakness: Proven depth. Now that Robles has relocated to defense, Utah won't have a player coming off the bench with a single snap of experience at this level. Shreve is a rookie and Hays is a transfer, an unsettling reality for a program whose starter was banged up quite a bit in 2010.
Outlook: No player in Salt Lake City will be more valuable than No. 3, Wynn. When he's right and peppering defenses with throws, Utah is a tough team to beat. However, now that seasoned veteran Terrance Cain has graduated, the Utes will be prone to getting exposed if the junior suffers any setbacks. He needs to be healthy for all 12 games for the Pac-12 newcomers to have a shot in the South Division.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: One of the roster hot spots this offseason has been at running back, which was gutted by graduations. The Utes must replace its outstanding tandem of Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide, which produced the bulk of the yards on the ground the last two years. The unfortunate downside to the pair is that it prevented the program from giving snaps to its younger players. How dire is the situation? Utah's leading returning rusher, former QB Griff Robles, plans to play linebacker this fall.
Exiting spring, the staff was unable to see much separation among its three main competitors. Provided he holds on to the ball, it looks as if 5-9, 190-pound junior John White will get an opportunity to play immediately after transferring from Los Angeles Harbor College. A prolific runner at the previous level, he has as much speed and shiftiness as any back on the roster. Unlikely to be the feature back because of his frame, he's an ideal scatback and outlet in the passing game.
The future—and possibly the present—belongs to true freshman Harvey Langi , the state' top recruit who chose Utah over more prominent Pac-12 schools. At 6-1 and 225 pounds, he can do things, like work between the tackles and pick up the tough yards, which White cannot. He has a lot to learn, naturally, but sports the running style of a future workhorse in Salt Lake City.
Easily the most intriguing of the competing backs is sophomore Thretton Palamo . Better known for his work as a rugby player, he's the youngest ever participant in the sport's World Cup. An explosive blend of quick feet and athleticism in a 6-2, 240-pound frame, he'll give the coaching staff plenty of raw materials to work with over the next three years.
A new offensive system means more use of a fullback. The Utes are auditioning a young pair, 6-0, 235-pound sophomore Karl Williams and 6-4, 255-pound redshirt freshman Jake Murphy . Williams is a walk-on and former letterman at Southern Utah. The son of former Major League slugger Dale Murphy, Williams' competitor will also play some tight end this season.
Watch Out For … plenty of sharing. As of now, it does not appear that the Utes are carrying a back who's ready to handle 25 carries a game. Instead, the offense is likely to employ a committee approach, inserting the right player to match the down and distance.
Strength: Versatility. The beauty of the remade backfield is that no single part is the same. Each of the three contenders is going to bring something different to the running game. White is explosive, Langi has every-down qualities, and Palamo possesses the size and pop to be effective in short yardage.
Weakness: Proven runners. Suggesting that the Ute runners are green is a gross understatement. The trio of contenders for snaps has yet to log a carry in an FBS game. The lack of experience will become especially evident in the smaller aspects of the game, like picking up the blitz and practicing sound ball security.
Outlook: Patience is going to be the key for 2011. While Utah houses three runners with potential, it's doubtful they'll reach that ceiling until next season. In the meantime, it'll be up to the coaching staff to smooth out some of the wrinkles in their games and determine the best possible way to divvy up the carries.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: Since just one returning receiver caught more than 20 passes a year ago, the offense will spend the summer searching for capable hands in the passing game. Last year's top pass-catcher, Jereme Brooks, has graduated, as have the sure-handed backs who caught so many balls in 2010. The coaching staff is hoping to get more targets involved, beginning with an expanded role for the tight ends.
With Brooks gone, DeVonte Christopher is poised to make a seamless transition into the go-to role. The former high school quarterback continues to gain confidence, catching 39 balls for 660 yards and six touchdowns last season. The 6-1, 200-pound junior can play above most defensive backs, while a earning a reputation for making acrobatic plays and picking up yards after the grab.
Behind Christopher at "X" receiver is transfer Anthony Denham , who brings a lot of potential from East Los Angeles College. Coveted for his size, the 6-4, 231-pounder will have an opportunity to make plays shortly after arriving on campus.
One of the offseason surprises at wide receiver has been redshirt freshmanDres Anderson , who has surged ahead of more experienced teammates at "Z" receiver. The 6-1, 185-pound son of former NFL star Flipper Anderson impressed the coaches with his speed and polished route-running on last year's scout team. He's being pushed by 6-0, 173-pound junior Reggie Dunn , one of the fastest players on the roster. The Oregon State transfer flashed his utility in 2010, catching four passes, running for a pair of scores, and averaging almost 30 yards as a kick returner.
Junior Kendrick Moeai stands to benefit from the increased employment of the tight end in 2011. The 6-5, 250-pound returning starter has the long frame and soft hands to improve on last season's 11 receptions for 225 yards and one touchdown.
Watch Out For … the whereabouts of Luke Matthews . The junior wide receiver played some running back in the spring and has been discussed as an option at fullback or H-back. After the 6-1, 206-pounder caught 18 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns, the staff wants to get him on the field, but it's just not sure where that'll be.
Strength: Yards after the catch. From Christopher to Moeai at tight end, the Utes do a nice job of turning short connections into long gainers. Dunn aside, the group doesn't necessarily have track speed, but it gets separation and will fight through arm tackles for more yards.
Weakness: Consistency at wide receiver. After Christopher, the Utes are going to be painfully thin and inexperienced on the outside. Half of the projected two-deep rotation, Anderson and Denham, has yet to catch a pass for the program. And Dunn needs to become more than just the speed guy who flies past the secondary.
Outlook: Christopher is destined for a starring role provided he gets support from the receivers around him. Moeai will be a pleasant surprise, who increases his production, but it's incumbent upon Anderson, Dunn, and Denham to take some of the heat away from Jordan Wynn's main targets.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: It remains to be seen whether the glass is half-full or half-empty along the offensive line. On the one hand, three starters return, including a rock-solid tandem at tackle. On the other, however, the two graduating seniors, C Zane Taylor and G Caleb Schlauderaff, made last year's All-Mountain West First Team. While the Utes will be working around a solid foundation, depth and the two guard positions will be unknowns until proven otherwise.
At right tackle, senior Tony Bergstrom is about to spread his name to a larger swath of the West Coast. The third-year starter is coming off his best season in Salt Lake City, earning Second Team All-Mountain West honors. The 6-6, 315-pounder, with the NFL future, has the long arms and the quick feet needed to adjust to the speed of the Pac-12's better pass rushers.
Forming a bookend at tackle with Bergstrom is senior John Cullen , the starter on the left side. As a transfer from Fullerton (Calif.) College, the 6-5, 305-pounder played well in his first season as a Ute. He started all 12 regular season games, excelling as a physical run defender. His likely successor in 2012 will be 6-5, 307-pound sophomore Kapua Sai , the backup at left tackle coming out of spring. The Hawaiian product played in a couple of games in 2010, getting a taste of action in 35 plays.
The anchor on the inside will be 6-1, 297-pound junior Tevita Stevens , who's moving from guard to center in order to offset the loss of Taylor. A natural at the pivot after starting two years at right guard, the former walk-on plays with a non-stop motor and excellent fundamentals. He did not allow a sack throughout 2010.
The relocation of Stevens and graduation of Schlauderaff leave the Utes undermanned at guard heading into the summer. When fall camp begins, the favorites to win jobs will be 6-3, 300-pound junior Sam Brenner and 6-4, 314-pound sophomore Percy Taumoelau on the left and right sides, respectively. Brenner was the first man off the bench in 2010, earning the Las Vegas Bowl start at left tackle when Cullen was injured. Taumoelau has the much steeper learning curve of the pair, having played in just four career games on offense. He'll be kept on his toes in August by true freshman Isaac Asiata , one of the gems of the 2011 recruiting class. The 6-3, 310-pounder has a mean streak and physical blocking style that'll make it tough to keep him on the bench.
Watch Out For … Stevens to emerge as one of the Pac-12's top centers of 2011. Now that he no longer has to freelance or play at guard, the junior is prepared to become a rock at his best position. From the smarts to the toughness, the blue-collar Ute has the necessary characteristics of an all-star snapper.
Strength: Pass protection. From the 13th-ranked unit that yielded less than a sack a game, both all-star caliber starting tackles return. Bergstrom is eyeing All-American recognition in his final season of eligibility, and Cullen should be even better in his second year since transferring from junior college.
Weakness: The guards. While it might not be a tragedy, compared to the tackles, the guards are in rough shape. The Utes need a few things to happen before the opener in order to allay the concerns. Brenner must run with his promotion, Asiata needs to be a reliable part of the rotation, and Stevens has to make life easier on those around him.
Outlook: The Utes will be slightly more vulnerable than a year ago, especially with the level of competition improving. The tackles and center are Pac-12 capable, but the guards are going to be a work-in-progress. An even greater issue will be overall depth, which could reach crisis level as the season progresses and the starters get dinged.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Utah Preview |
2011 Utah Defense |
Utah Depth Chart