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2013 Utah Preview – Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 12, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Utah Ute Defense


Utah Utes

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Utah Preview | 2013 Utah Offense
- 2013 Utah Defense | 2013 Utah Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: In an effort to reverse his team’s offensive woes, head coach Kyle Whittingham pulled out all the stops in February with the hiring of venerable coach Dennis Erickson as a co-offensive coordinator. The veteran of the Pac-12, among other leagues, is attempting to give the Utes more of an identity by installing a spread offense that uses a lot of up-tempo and no-huddle looks. Erickson’s early fate will rest heavily on the development of second-year QB Travis Wilson who had the training wheels yanked off as a rookie in 2012. He promises to be much more consistent in Year 2, good news for an underrated set of receivers and tight ends. Utah also needs to mine a new feature back, and get improved blocking from the Jeremiah Poutasi-led line. RB John White was a fixture on the ground over the past two seasons, leaving another former junior college transfer, Kelvin York, to hopefully take and run with the baton.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Travis Wilson
128-204, 1,311 yds, 7 TDs, 6 INTs
Rushing: Kelvin York
60 carries, 273 yds, 3 TDs
Receiving: Dres Anderson
36 catches, 365 yds, 3 TDs

Star of the offense: Sophomore LT Jeremiah Poutasi
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior RB Kelvin York
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore QB Travis Wilson
Best pro prospect: Poutasi
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Poutasi, 2) Junior TE Jake Murphy, 3) Junior WR Kenneth Scott
Strength of the offense: Tight ends, wide receiver size, left side of the line, ball protection
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback inexperience, explosive plays, the O-line, converting on third downs

Quarterbacks

The Utes are about to begin an exciting new era, one which will have sophomore Travis Wilson as the undisputed starting quarterback. The San Clemente, Calif. native arrived in Salt Lake City last year as the nation’s 27th-ranked quarterback. He has quite a pocket presence, unexpected mobility and a quick trigger. Oh, and now he has live experience as well. Wilson supplanted an injured Jordan Wynn and an ineffective Jon Hays, completing 128-of-204 passes for 1,311 yards, seven touchdowns and six picks. He also scrambled for four scores, while gradually getting more comfortable as the season unfolded. The franchise is a year wiser and 20 pounds stronger, filling out to 6-6 and 240 pounds following a successful offseason in the weight room.

The backup job will come down to 6-1, 205-pound sophomore Adam Schulz and 6-2, 200-pound true freshman Brandon Cox. Schulz is a strong-armed former walk-on, with two additional years of experience. Cox graduated early from high school in order to participate in spring drills, a three-star prospect who chose Utah over Arizona. He has a great feel for the game, and is far more poised than his youth might indicate.

Watch Out For … Wilson’s odd throwing motion to, well, remain rather unique. The sophomore is a sidewinder, with no intention of overhauling his delivery. The key for Wilson is that he gets the ball out of his hand so quickly, a real benefit in the spread system that’ll be run by new offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson.
Strength: The future. The starter is in his second year, and the two contending backups are both underclassmen. The Utes quarterbacks will continue to get better with each passing practice session, especially with Erickson overseeing their development. Better days almost certainly lay ahead for Utah at the most important position on the field.
Weakness: Experience. Last year, Utah had two veterans, Wynn and Hays, on the depth chart. This year, a second-year player is the new graybeard in Salt Lake City. The Utes are very young under center, and with youth comes mistakes, inconsistency and inevitable growing pains.
Outlook: The potential is in place for Wilson to blossom into the program’s best quarterback since Alex Smith was wearing the school colors. But does he approach his ceiling in 2013 or 2014? There’s no doubting that Erickson has plenty of raw talent with which to work. Wilson was improving toward the end of last season, a trend that’s likely to continue once the games begin in September.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

One gifted JUCO transfer is gone. Another one is gearing up to take his place. The Utes are in a position to replace John White, a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher and the owner of the school’s single-season rushing record. His likely successor will be senior Kelvin York, last year’s backup who began his career at Fullerton (Calif.) College. The 5-11, 220-pound downhill runner played in eight games in 2012, running 60 times for 273 yards and three scores. If York is healthy, he has the size-speed potential to be exactly what Utah needs on the ground.

The battle for reps behind York is essentially a free-for-all, with 6-0, 196-pound sophomore James Poole, 5-8, 187-pound Lucky Radley and 6-0, 243-pound Karl Williams all posturing for touches. Poole’s speed was missed last season, as he sat out the year with an injury. The speedy and elusive Radley rushed for 50 yards and a score on 15 carries, and played well in the spring. Williams can move a pile with his size, but also displayed soft hands with nine receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Watch Out For … the newcomers to further complicate the depth chart. If the backfield appeared contentious in the spring, just wait until the summer when three-star backs Devontae Booker and Dre’vian Young join the fray. Booker is closer to being ready, a transfer from American River (Calif.) College who was also pursued by West Virginia.
Strength: Competition. With so many Utes competing for playing time, someone is going to emerge from the scrum this summer. The coaching staff will have plenty of unique options from which to cobble together a pecking order, from York to Booker. Since no one is guaranteed of anything at this stage of the preseason, the climate figures to bring the best out of everyone.
Weakness: A sure-thing. There’s just far too much uncertainty for an offensive attack that needs to provide its young quarterbacks with as much support as possible. The veteran among the running back, York, has spent one year with the program, has had a history of injury problems and carried the ball just 60 times in his debut.
Outlook: Someone needs to step up and assume the role of the feature back … and quickly. The Utes will employ a committee if necessary, but would prefer to lean on one player, with plenty of complements. York is first in line to fill the job, but if he can’t deliver or gets banged up, the line of Utes looking to replace him will be a very long and fidgety one.
Unit Rating: 6

Receivers

Although Utah welcomes back last year’s leading receiver, junior Dres Anderson, there’s hardly a feeling of contentment about the corps of pass-catchers. The 6-1, 187-pounder on the outside has big-play speed and plenty of experience, but only caught 36 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Anderson was hurt by the team’s inconsistency at quarterback, but he also needs to eliminate some of the untimely drops that plagued him in 2012.

Battling Anderson to become Utah’s preferred target is 6-3, 211-pound junior Kenneth Scott. He started 10 games a year ago, finishing third on the squad with 32 catches for 360 yards and three touchdowns. Scott is a team leader and a polished all-around receiver whose size and physicality will create major matchup headaches for opposing defenders.

The team’s third wide receiver in three-wide sets will either be 6-2, 216-pound junior Quinton Pedroza or 6-4, 222-pound senior Anthony Denham. Pedroza actually plays smaller than his size, meaning he’s surprisingly quick, and can elevate above defenders to pull the ball out of the air. He also sports some of the stickiest hands on the roster, which ought to make him a popular target among the quarterbacks. Denham is in the hunt after catching 11 balls for 135 yards, but he doesn’t have quite the ceiling of Pedroza. He is a big-bodied target, though, who can be tough to stop when he boxes out his man.

Sure-things on offense will be scarce this fall in Salt Lake City. TE Jake Murphy appears capable of becoming one of them in the passing game. The 6-4, 252-pound son of former Atlanta Braves slugger Dale Murphy started just five games in 2012, yet wound up second on the Utes with 33 receptions for 349 yards and four touchdowns. Sure-handed and athletic, the junior is proving to be a nice fit for an offensive attack that felt it was underutilizing its tight ends and H-backs in recent years.

Murphy is on the rise, but his ascent hasn’t stopped 6-4, 252-pound Westlee Tonga from competing for the starting tight end job. While the senior only caught four passes for 39 yards and a touchdown in 2012, his speed and athleticism remain intriguing to the staff. Plus, new coordinator Dennis Erickson won’t hesitate to use two tight ends at the same time, which could create opportunities for Murphy and Tonga to be on the field together.

Watch Out For … the group’s eventual grade to hinge on the maturation of sophomore QB Travis Wilson. The wide receivers and tight ends are not without upside and considerable talent, but it won’t be so easy to detect if Wilson performs as if he’s only two years removed from high school. Many of the unit’s issues problems in 2012 could be traced directly to the inconsistencies of their battery mates.
Strength: Mismatches. There is nothing diminutive or slight about the Utah pass-catchers, most of whom are taller than the linebackers and defensive backs they’ll be matched against. Scott, Murphy and Pedroza are well north of 200 pounds, which is also going to mean a lot of yards after contact as defenders attempt to drag tackle them to the turf.
Weakness: Consistency. Again, the quarterbacks share some of the culpability here, but the wide receivers, in particular, still need to do a better job on the little things, like eliminating drops, running cleaner routes and holding blocks downfield. While Utah harbors the experience and the physical skills, the receivers must still become wilier in the way that they approach their assignments within the offense.
Outlook: The Utes are better than last year’s numbers. Now they must go out and prove it on Saturdays. The quarterback position should be on better footing, which is going to dramatically help out the likes of Anderson, Scott and Murphy. The receivers and tight ends are poised to put 2012 in the rear view mirror. With even modest improvement from behind center, both positions are capable of blossoming in a big way later in the fall.
Unit Rating: 7

Offensive Line

In massive Jeremiah Poutasi, the Utes feel they harbor a rising star, encouraging news for a unit losing a couple of longtime stalwarts on the interior, and looking to bounce back from a so-so 2012. The 6-5, 345-pound enforcer at left tackle led the program in knockdown blocks as a rookie, and was named honorable mention All-Pac-12, despite not starting until the third week of the season. Now a sophomore, Poutasi is being promoted from the right side to the left side, indicative of the staff’s confidence in his pass blocking skills. If he keeps learning, and maintains his conditioning, he could be Utah’s next great lineman.

Next to Poutasi at left guard will be 6-2, 320-pound senior Jeremiah Tofaeono, who started six games in 2012 before succumbing to a knee injury. Healthy again, he’ll use his strength, leverage and experience to get underneath the other guy’s pads and drive block on running plays.

Bucking to become the anchor of the right side will be 6-2, 325-pound junior Junior Salt, the team’s projected starting guard. The former All-American at Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) Junior College and Florida commit began his Ute career at defensive tackle before switching sides of the ball. After redshirting in 2012, Salt is ready to bring his power and toughness to the offensive side of the ball.

The staff has been impressed by the progression of its right tackle, 6-2, 305-pound Siaosi Aiono. The sophomore appears to be getting it after seeing his participation and number of reps increase toward the end of his rookie year.

In order to replace Tevita Stevens at center, Utah is looking to a veteran, 6-3, 305-pound senior Vyncent Jones. Jones has played plenty in Salt Lake City, lettering three times and earning spot starts along the way. He’s rugged and surly, showing the characteristics that the program likes in its linemen.

Jones will continue to get pushed by 6-2, 300-pound redshirt freshman Hiva Lutui, the future at center for the Utes. Junior Andrew Albers, a recent transfer from Orange Coast (Calif.) College, looks as if he’s ready to have an immediate impact at right tackle. At 6-7 and 310 pounds, he’s more of a prototypical tackle than Aiono. The most experienced guard off the bench will be 6-4, 310-pound senior Percy Taumoelau, the versatile owner of three career letters and a smattering of starts.

Watch Out For … the health of the unit. Above all else, the Utes need to remain off the trainer’s table, which has been a major issue in recent years. If Utah is going to put 2012 in the rear view mirror, it’s incumbent upon the group to be at full-strength for the entire regular season.
Strength: Girth. The Utah offensive linemen are very big, very physical and very capable of bullying opposing D-lines on running plays. The starting lineup averages close to 320 pounds, which ought to provide the impetus for this offense to plow through defenses in a north-south fashion.
Weakness: Finesse. Obviously, the Utah blockers had a very tough time at the point of contact a year ago, and now they’re being asked to learn a new up-tempo system that involves plenty of no-huddle. Are the Utes properly conditioned to handle the aforementioned attack? It’ll be an interesting transition, one that’s sure to test the linemen early on.
Outlook: Utah needs to block better than it did a year ago, which is a tall order considering two long-time veterans have graduated. Poutasi is the new leading man of the front wall, a precocious man-child at left tackle. The sophomore will be surrounded by a collection of blue-collar scrappers, each of whom needs to come together as a more cohesive unit in September.
Unit Rating: 6.5

- 2013 Utah Preview | 2013 Utah Offense
- 2013 Utah Defense | 2013 Utah Depth Chart