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2008 Utah Preview - Offense
Utah QB Brian Johnson
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Utah Ute Offense
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What you need to know: Considering Utah lost its two star
offensive weapons, QB Brian Johnson and RB Matt Asiata, in the
first game of the season, and its top receiving weapon, Brent
Casteel, in the second game, the offense turned out to not be
that awful. Johnson returned, but he wasn't the same having to
worry about keeping an injured shoulder healthy. Darrell Mack
took over the rushing duties and became a star, and the
receiving corps was fine. This year, all the pieces are in place
to explode. There's an exciting option in Corbin Louks if
Johnson gets hurt again, Asiata is back to work with Mack in the
backfield, Casteel returns as the team's most dangerous target,
and even with all of that, the line might be the team's strength
with three possible first-team All-Mountain West stars in tackle
Zane Beadles and guards Caleb
Schlauderaff and Robert Conley.
Passing: Brian Johnson
181-272, 1,847 yds, 11 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Darrell Mack
253 carries, 1,204 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Bradon Godfrey
50 catches, 524 yds, 3 TD
Star of the offense: Senior QB Brian Johnson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore C
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore QB Corbin Louks
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OG Caleb Schlauderaff
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Johnson, 2) RB Darrell
Mack, 3) Schlauderaff
Strength of the offense: Experience, offensive line,
Weakness of the offense:
Speed back, Brian Johnson's
Projected Starter: Can senior Brian Johnson
finally catch a break stay healthy for a full season?
Originally a crown jewel of a recruit for Urban Meyer, Johnson
was considered the prototype quarterback for the spread attack
until Tim Tebow broke the mold. When Johnson came to Utah he had
fantastic speed and quickness, a tremendous arm, and decent 6-1,
205-pound size. He still has the arm and the size, but he lost a
little of his speed after tearing up his knee at the end of
2005. He sat out all of 2006 choosing not to push it, only to
break his collarbone in the season opener against Oregon State
last season. The 2005 Mountain West total yardage leader now has
one final shot after coming back last year to throw for 1,847
yards and 11 touchdowns with ten interceptions while running for
150 yards and two scores. He can't take that many hits and will
probably leave most of the running to the backs, like he did
last year to protect his injured shoulder. However, it'll be
interesting to see when he can let it rip and become the star he
was always expected to be.
Projected Top Reserves: The future of the Utah
quarterback spot might also be the present. 6-0, 185-opund
sophomore Corbin Louks got his chance in spring ball with
Brian Johnson limited, and he looked the part showing off
phenomenal running skills and adding a whole other dimension to
the attack that's been missing with Johnson hurt. He saw a
little bit of work here and there completing five of eight
passes for 41 yards and two touchdowns while finishing third on
the team with 162 yards and a score. He's a special athlete
who'll get more plays designed for him this year.
6-5, 225-pound sophomore Chad Manis is the clear third
man in the mix. The former JUCO transfer is a true chucker with
nice mobility, but he's still a work in progress and will only
step in if there's an emergency. While he's not the best
quarterback of the bunch, he's the purest passer.
On the way is true freshman DeVonte Christopher, an
interesting talent who was the Nevada Prep Player of the Year
after throwing for 3,265 yards and 44 touchdowns. He's a
fantastic all-around athlete who can do a little of everything
well. A smart player, he'll pick everything up instantly.
Watch Out For ... even more work for Louks.
The star of spring ball is too good to keep under wraps. He'll
take the hits and come up with the big running plays Brian
Strength: Options. Now that the coaching staff knows
Louks can play, there will be less of a worry about Brian
Johnson's healthy. Tommy Grady wasn't the answer last year, but
Louks is. DeVonte Christopher and Chad Manis can each play.
Weakness: Worrying about Johnson. It's easy to think what might
have been over the last few years had Johnson stayed healthy,
but now that he's a senior he has to play like this is his
career. While he's not fragile, he hasn't had much luck. The
backups have to be at the ready.
Outlook: Johnson is the best quarterback in
the Mountain West, and one of the best in America, when he's
100% healthy and playing like he's not worried about getting
hurt. If he can shake off the tough-luck injuries, he'll be an
elite leader for what should be a high-powered offense. No mater
what, Corbin Louks will get more work and Chad Manis will be
thrown in from time to time just to get him on the field. It's a
good overall situation which could be a great one in Johnson
Projected Starters: The running game was supposed
to go in the tank once Matt Asiata went down for the year in the
season opener, and then Darrell Mack stepped in and
ripped off 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns in a little over 12
games of work as he carried the Ute offense at times. A power
runner with a little bit of wiggle, the 6-0, 219-pound senior
cranked out six 100-yard games in a seven week span highlighted
by a 163-yard, three score effort against Louisville, and while
his yards tailed off down the stretch, he scored six touchdown
in the final four games. While he's not a natural receiver, he
gets the job done finishing fourth on the team with 21 grabs for
144 yards and three scores.
Projected Top Reserves: Adding even more power to
the mix is 6-0, 223-pound senior Ray Stowers, a solid
backup who finished second on the team with 261 yards and two
touchdowns despite only getting meaningful work in roughly four
games. He cranked out 123 yards and a score against Colorado
State and mopped up the week after against Wyoming, but he was
mainly an insurance policy. Shoulder problems have kept his
career from taking off, but he's a tough between-the-tackle
runner who can catch a little bit.
Junior Matt Asiata was last year's big recruit coming in
from the JUCO ranks after rushing for 1,365 yards and 15
touchdowns at Snow College. The 6-0, 235-pound star-in waiting
had is all with size, good quickness, and the potential to be
the Mountain West's best back, but he broke his leg in the
season opening loss to Oregon State after carrying the ball just
four times for 16 yards and was out for the year. Back and
healthy, he'll now be a part of the rotation early on but could
quickly take over the duties for a stretch. He's that good.
On the way is star freshman Sausan Shakerin, a 6-2,
215-pound Mr. Football in Utah who has the speed and size to
take over the rushing load right away. He'll likely redshirt
with all the talent already in the mix, but he's the future of
the ground attack.
Watch Out For ... Asiata. Mack might be
the best back in the Mountain West and a near sure-thing for
1,000 yards if he stays healthy and has the full-time job, and
he could still be booted if Asiata is running as well as
Strength: Size. The three backs in the rotation average
6-0 and 226 pounds. There's not going to be any break from the
Ute power running game.
Weakness: Speed. While the big backs aren't slow, there aren't
any home-run hitters. The longest gain from scrimmage last year
was just 45 yards. For a speed back, the offense has to turn to
wide receivers Jereme Brooks or Elijah Wesson, or it has to hope
Eddie Wide will be ready to produce right away.
Outlook: Hammer, hammer, hammer, hammer, hammer.
With three big, pounding backs in Mack, Stowers and Asiata, the Utes are going to pound the ball as much as
they want to. There's no outside threat and there's little
proven speed, but whatever. This trio should combine for well over
2,000 yards and will leave everyone battered and bruised.
Projected Starters: A good-looking receiving corps
gets even better with the return of senior Brent Casteel
after he got knocked out early last year with a knee problem. A
smooth all-around playmaker who caught 39 passes for 600 yards
and ten touchdowns averaging 15.3 yards per grab in 2006, and
then he started off well with seven grabs for 654 yards and a
score last year. Fortunately the injury happened early enough to
give him time to heal, but he should have his 4.5 speed ready to
roll to be the team's most dangerous yard-after-the-catch
Also back is 6-3, 197-pound senior Bradon Godfrey, the
team's leading retuning receiver with 50 catches for 524 yards
and three touchdowns last season. With a nice combination of
good hands, decent deep speed, and toughness when it comes time
to make the big catch, he's a consistent No. 2 receiver who is
good for around five catches a game. First he has to get past a
hamstring problem that bothered him throughout the spring.
Third in the mix will be senior Freddie Brown, who made
20 catches for 219 yards without a score. At 6-3 and 215 pounds
he's a big target and a great route runner; he's the perfect
possession receiver. He might not beat anyone for a deep ball,
but he'll beat up the smaller, less physical defensive backs
when it comes to fighting for the ball. After a fantastic
spring, he should be used more and should grow into a bigger
6-4, 250-pound senior Colt Sampson will step in when the
offense uses a tight end. He got two starts last year and
finished with two catches for 15 yards, and while he didn't get
into the end zone, he was good as a sophomore when it came time
to making his grabs count. He's good enough to get more work his
Projected Top Reserves: Is senior
Marquis Wilson going to be part of the team again? Arguably
the team's most talented receiver, he averaged 15.8 yards per
catch making 18 grabs for 285 yards and three touchdowns, but he
got booted off the team after a drunk driving charge. It'll take
some work to get out of the doghouse and back on the team, but
if he's in he'll be a star deep threat who can play any spot.
5-9, 170-pound Jereme Brooks isn't all that big, but he's
a nice inside target, and a good option playing behind the big
Brandon Godfrey. He caught 15 passes for 183 yards and two
touchdowns and can be used as a running back at times. He ran
for 129 yards and three touchdowns, including two against
Wyoming, and he'll be great as a receiver when he gets the ball
on the move.
Junior Elijah Wesson can run the ball, tearing off 116
yards last year, and has seen a little action as a receiver
making five catches for 15 yards. Now he has to get over an
ankle problem and has to reestablish himself in the rotation.
Backing up Colt Sampson at tight end is sophomore Brad
Clifford, a promising 6-4, 245-pound sophomore who could
grow into a nice receiver if he gets a chance. However, JUCO
star Dudley LaPorte is on the way after catching 30
passes for 500 yards and four scores for Santa Barbara. He's a
big-time receiving talent who needs to be on the field early on.
Watch Out For ... Brown to pick defenses
apart. With all the attention paid to Godfrey and Casteel, Brown will see plenty of mediocre defensive backs he
can shove around. He's not going to be a star, but he'll be
deadly on third downs.
Strength: Returning production. Even with leading
receiver Richards gone the receiving corps will be
better. The return of Casteel makes up for it and there are good
backups to rely on in a pinch. This is a strong, deep unit.
Weakness: Proven tight end production. The offense just doesn't
use the position enough. That might change with three good ones
to start throwing to, but there isn't any one who has done it at
the D-I level. The three are receivers, not blockers.
Outlook: The Utes are loaded with experience and
talent. This isn't the sexiest corps around and there might not
be any sure-thing all-stars, but there are several nice targets
to work with and plenty of options. If Casteel is fully
healthy, he could be the signature receiver, but there doesn't
need to be one with all the good, reliable weapons.
Projected Starters: The left side of the line
should be the best in the Mountain West led by 6-5, 300-pound sophomore
guard Caleb Schlauderaff. After being thrown to the wolves as a
redshirt freshman three games into the season, he came though with a
stunningly consistent years showing why he might be the league's best
guard for the next three seasons. A tough run blocker with ridiculous
strength, he's a special prospect who should be a lock for all-star
6-4, 312-pound junior Zane
Beadles was a second-team All-Mountain West performance at
left tackle after moving over from guard just before the year. A
star recruit a few years ago, he has lived up to the billing. A
dominant run blocker who still needs work as a pass protector,
he still has a little work to do but he should be a special
performer as one of the anchors of a great line.
Also a sure-thing for all-star honors is senior right guard
Robert Conley. The 6-1, 316-pound blocker has been the
team's best run blocker for the last few years and has
transformed himself from a raw prospect into a weight room star
and a second-team All-Mountain West star. Extremely strong and
dominant for long stretches, he's a tough veteran who isn't
going to make any mistakes and will manhandle anyone he gets his
Lost in the shuffle is right tackle Dustin Hensel, a
massive 6-7, 320-pound senior who started in every game last
year and was decent. While not a star and can be beaten by speed
rushers, the former JUCO transfer is a tough run blocker who's
tough to get around when he locks his arm on a defender.
Sophomore Zane Taylor will take over for Kyle Gunther at
center after spending most of his time on special teams last
year. At 6-3 and 305 pounds, he's a big prospect who spent the
last few years learning on the fly after starting his career as
a defensive tackle. He could be a guard if needed, but he'll be
of more use as a center.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Tyler Williams
has spent most of his time on special teams and will battle
with Zane Taylor for the open center job. His claim to fame is
setting the world weightlifting record for a 13-to-15-year-old
benching close to 400 pounds, and while he's strong, he's not
the all-around blocker Taylor is.
Senior Corey Seiuli was the starter at left guard for the
first three games of the season before getting hurt. Able to
play guard or tackle, he's a versatile, big 320-pound run
blocker who's fully matured. 24 when the season starts, he can
handle himself well anywhere on the left side.
One of the new stars should be 6-6, 290-pound freshman
Tony Bergstrom, a big-time prospect who's back from an LDS
Church mission. He joined the team in 2005 and has been out of
the mix for a few years, but he's a talented, versatile blocker
who could play anywhere on the line. He'll start out behind
Dustin Hensel at right tackle.
Watch Out For ... Schlauderaff to be
special. He might be just a sophomore, but it's all there for
him to become one of the league's special linemen. He'll be a
three-time All-Mountain West performer before he's done.
Strength: Talent. Schlauderaff, Beadles and Conley
form a special trio that could all end up on the first team
All-Mountain West team. This group will kick the stuffing out of
the average defensive lines.
Weakness: Pass protection. It's good, not great. The tackles are
run blockers and while Beadles isn't bad on the left side, the
Utah quarterbacks were under way too much pressure last season.
That needs to change to keep Brian Johnson healthy.
Outlook: The line was good last season and it
should be special this year. With four returning starters, a few
nice-looking reserves, and a decent situation at the one open
spot, center, there's absolutely no excuse to not be the most
proficient line in the Mountain West when it comes to power
running. The interior will be impressive, while the left side,
with Schlauderaff and Beadles, should be dominant.