2007 Utah Preview - Offense
Utah Ute Offense
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2006 CFN Utah
What you need to know: Look out. Utah not only gets just
about everyone back with its top six wide receivers, leading
rusher Darryl Poston, and four starting offensive linemen, but
it also welcomes back its superstar, quarterback Brian Johnson,
after taking last year off to recover from a torn ACL. All the
problems with inconsistency throughout last season should be
gone thanks to all the experience. Expect more explosion, a slew
of Mountain West all-stars, and for Johnson to become a national
college football name. There's more than enough depth at the
skill positions to withstand injuries, but there's no
development among the backups on the line.
Passing: Tommy Grady
7-14, 102 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Darryl Poston
145 carries, 553 yds, 5TD
Receiving: Derrek Richards
60 catches, 717 yds, 6 TD
Star of the offense: Junior QB Brian Johnson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Junior RB Matt Asiata
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Jason Boone
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Johnson, 2) Boone, 3)
OG Robert Conley
Strength of the offense: Experience, offensive line
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line depth, sure-thing
star running back
Projected Starter: Back and better than new (at
least Utah fans hope) is junior Brian Johnson, one of the
Mountain West's premier players who started to turn into a star
at the end of 2005, with 1,425 passing yards and 11 touchdown
passes in a four-game stretch, when he got hurt late with a bad
knee injury. While he probably could've pushed it and come back
early, and just for a split-second was considering stepping in
at one point when former starter, Brett Ratliff, was struggling,
he ended up sitting out the year to heal completely. Now the
2005 Mountain West total yardage leader has two years left to
fulfill the promise when Urban Meyer recruited him a few years
ago and considered him the ideal fit for his spread offense.
While he's only 6-1 and 210 pounds, he doesn't have any problems
finding throwing lanes making most of his plays on the move. He
threw for 2,982 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 478 yards
before, and now that he knows the offense even better after his
year off, and after getting work in on the scout team, he should
Projected Top Reserves: Former Oklahoma transfer
Tommy Grady was considered deep in the hunt for the
starting job last year, got beaten out by Ratliff, and did
nothing when given a chance. At 6-7 and 235 pounds, he's a pure
passer with a little bit of experience seeing time with the
Sooners and playing in seven games last year. He has a howitzer
for an arm, but he has to be more accurate.
Manis will have a few years to season after coming over from
the JUCO ranks. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, he's a big passer with
Watch Out For ... Johnson to be better than
before. He'll have to guard against pressing too hard trying to
do too much after his year off, but as long as he can stay
healthy, he has Mountain West Player of the Year potential.
Strength: Big backups. Grady and Manis are more like
basketball forwards than quarterbacks. If Johnson falters, each
has enough experience to step in an bomb away potentially adding
more pop to the passing game because of their styles, but ...
Weakness: ... Johnson is the difference between a good year and
something special. Obviously, every team's backup is worse than
the No. 1, but Grady hasn't shown enough yet when given a chance
to show he can lead the team through adversity, and Manis is an
X factor. Johnson's knee is healthy, but everyone will be
holding their breath every time he gets hit.
Outlook: Ratliff had his ups-and-downs last
season, but he was generally solid leading the Utes to an eight
win season and a miraculous play by BYU's John Beck of finishing
up with a five-game winning streak. Brian Johnson will do even more
and should take the offense to another level. If Utah could win
with Brett Ratliff, it should be able to dominate with Johnson.
and Chad Manis are good backups who should be able to carry things
for a while if needed, though Utah can't win the Mountain West
title if they're under center.
Projected Starters: Former USC Trojan Darryl
Poston got a seventh year of eligibility from the NCAA after
missing four years in a row with a variety of injuries with a
torn up knee the worst of the bunch. He was the surprise of
spring ball last season and went on to lead the team with 553
yards and five touchdowns in a slightly disappointing year. The
smallest of the Utah running back options, despite being a solid
5-11 and 200 pounds, he has the potential to become a weapon if
he can get into the open on a regular basis. Now he needs to
crank out bigger runs after averaging just 3.8 yards per carry
with a long run of 18.
Projected Top Reserves: 219-pound sophomore
Darrell Mack is a power runner compared to the speed and
quickness of Poston. He didn't get a whole bunch of work missing
a bulk of the first half of the year banged up, but he was in
the mix over the final five games. .With a good mix of power and
moves, he has the potential to be the team's best back if he
puts it all together and starts to produce.
Ray Stowers, who hasn't been able to do much in his career
thanks to a variety of shoulder problems, brings even
more thunder and could grow into a short-yardage back role.
Senior Mike Liti, who got a few carries here and there,
got knocked out for the year with a knee injury a season after
having problems with a shoulder injury. At best, he'll be a
five-carry-a-game spot starter when he returns this fall.
Mack and Stowers could all be keeping the seat warm for star
recruit Matt Asiata, a 235-pound JUCO transfer who ran
for 1,365 yards and 15 touchdowns at Snow College. He's a tough,
mature player who'll get every chance this fall to win the
Watch Out For ... more production from the running
backs. There can't be less. Poston has way too much speed to be
bottled up like he was last season, while the four main other
options, if nothing else, will provide more power. Having a
running quarterback like Brian Johnson will help take the
Strength: Size. Poston is a slasher who's job is to zip
through the openings. The rest of the backfield is about power
with a little bit of quickness. At worst, this group will block
well and keep Johnson clean.
Weakness: Can any of them actually produce? The running game was
so bad that star defensive back Eric Weddle turned out to be the
best option by the end of last year. There are plenty of options
to play around with, but there isn't one single star to rely on.
Outlook: The opportunity is there for one back to
step up and turn into the main man. It would be nice if the Utes
had a regular 15-20 carry back who could average around five
yards per carry, but they don't appear to have one. Expect the
dreaded running-back-by-committee until one emerges midway
through the year.
Projected Starters: Everyone's back giving Brian
Johnson several veteran targets to work with. The steadiest of
the bunch is senior Derrek Richards, a lighting fast blur
on the outside who led the team with 60 catches for 717 yards
and six touchdowns. Considering all his speed, he hasn't hit
many home runs with no 100-yard games and the the longest gain a
paltry 38 yards.
The most dangerous receiver, at least at the
end of last year, is junior Brent Casteel, who led the
team with ten touchdown grabs scoring seven times in the final
five games. Mostly a possession receiver before last season, he
started to show off his 4.5 speed and began to break out.
Brian Hernandez is a tough 6-0 and 175 pounds who's been a
main target for the last two season catching 86 passes for 1,133
yards and four touchdowns. He's been around the block and then
some coming to Utah as
a JUCO transfer after starting out at Georgia Tech before going
to Arizona State before moving to Pima CC.
6-1, 251-pound senior
tight end Matt Sims is more like a pass catching
fullback, although he only made four grabs for 62 yards last
season. He'll likely be used more with Johnson under center.
Projected Top Reserves: The reserves are almost as
good as the starters with almost as much experience. Junior
Marquis Wilson averaged 15.9 yards per catch making 25 grabs
for 398 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't get the ball
thrown his way all that often over the second half of the year,
but he tended to make the most of his catches highlighted by his
one grab for a 57-yard score against BYU. He's terrific when he
gets the ball on the move.
Junior Freddie Brown is a big,
physical option at 6-3 and 207 pounds. After doing next to
nothing over the first half of last year with just three catches
in the first six games, he got into the mix with 14 catches over
the final seven.
Also adding a big body is 6-3 junior Brandon
Godfrey, who has some of the best hand on the team and nice
deep speed leading the top six receivers with a 16.4
yard-per-catch average. He combines with Hernandez for a spot.
Junior Colt Sampson and redshirt freshman Paul Kruger
are tall pass catching possibilities at tight end as opposed
to the shorter Sims. Sampson only caught three passes with two
going for short touchdowns.
Watch Out For ... the interchangeable parts. The
Utes almost have more experienced veteran talent than the rest
of the Mountain West combined, and all can play. While Richards
can likely be categorized as a number one receiver, anyone can
fill the role on a given day.
Strength: Depth. There are six quality receivers who can
all start if needed. There's a little of everything with several
different options to work with.
Weakness: Tight end. There are three decent prospects, but no
one stands out yet as reliable short-range receiver, although
Sampson is developing into a dangerous goal line option.
Outlook: The Utes are loaded with experience and
talent, and now it's time for everyone to start doing more. More
consistency, more big plays, and more home runs are a must for a
corps with so many viable weapons. While the backs and tight
ends are involved in the passing game, the wide receivers are
the focus with the top six pass catchers last year all wideouts.
That won't change.
Projected Starters: Step one is to replace
all-star tackle Tavo Tupola, and it'll be up to senior Jeremy
Inferrera to give it a shot. The 6-3, 296-pound veteran backup has
seen plenty of action over the years, and even got a star on the left
side in place of Tupola in the win over Utah State, so he's not starting
from scratch. The former Hawaii transfer is a good athlete who can play
canter if needed.
There's no concern on the other side where 6-4,
300-pound senior Jason Boone is poised for an all-star season at
right tackle. He's a two-year starter who's fantastic in pass protection
and will now get the Mountain West spotlight to himself with Tupola
Also a sure thing for the All-Mountain West team will be right
guard Robert Conley, arguably the team's best run blocker. He's
6-1, 316 pounds and extremely strong going from a raw prospect to a
weight room warrior and a tough veteran.
304-pound senior Kyle
Gunther started every game last season after moving over from guard.
He's a big blocker who might not be Boone or Conley, but more than holds
his own. Sophomore left guard Zane Beadles is a 6-4, 312-pound
rock. A star recruit a few years ago, he's starting to live up to the
Projected Top Reserves: Junior tackle Dustin
Hensel represents the bulk of the experience among the backups. At
6-7 and 320 pounds, he's a monster of a pass protector on the right side
behind Boone, but he can move to the left side if needed. He's a good
athlete for a player of his size.
Getting the first shot behind Inferrera on the left side is Walter Watts, a 6-2, 300-pound
redshirt freshman who got in better shape over the last year and should
quickly be a key contributor.
6-5, 300-pound redshirt freshman Caleb
Schlauderauff is the main guard backup starting out on the left side
behind Beadles. While Watts has slimmed down, Schlauderauff has beefed
up. Already one of the team's strongest players, he'll grow into a good
one after he gets a little bit of time.
6-3, 305-pound redshirt freshman
Zane Taylor came to Utah a defensive tackle and moved over to the
offensive side. Now he'll back up Conley on the right side.
Watch Out For ... this to be one of the Mountain
West's best offensive lines, if not the best. With four returning
starters and a fifth (Inferrera) who's good enough to step in without
missing a beat, the Utes will be tremendous.
Strength: Size. Along with the experience, this is a big,
athletic line averaging 307 pounds per man. It's not slow and stodgy;
this is an athletic group that can move.
Weakness: Depth. While the young prospects are terrific, there's
almost no experience whatsoever behind the starting five. Things
wouldn't be disastrous if injuries hit, but they'd better not come early
Outlook: There's no excuse if the skill players
don't blow up. They're going to have all the time in the world to
operate behind this group of veterans. There are four legitimate
all-conference players with Inferrera also a top talent. Now that
everyone knows what they're doing, the pass protection should just as
good after allowing just 15 sacks, and the holes should open up wider for
the running game.