2010 Utah Preview - Offense
Utah QB Jordan Wynn
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Utah Ute Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: For all of the success and all the wins over the last few years, the offense hasn't been consistent. There have been times when it was fantastic in the big games, and other times when it took too much effort to get the machine working. With eight returning starters including four up front, there should be more production. The backfield is loaded with three all-star caliber running backs in Matt Asiata, Eddie Wide, and Sausan Shakerin, and they should be good enough to combine for around 2,000 yards. Jordan Wynn is ready to be the starting quarterback for a full season after stepping in as a true freshman, but veteran Terrance Cain and Griff Robles are good enough to step up and push for time. The receiving corps will be the biggest question mark early on, but there are plenty of decent options to keep the passing game moving.
Star of the offense: Senior RB Matt Asiata
Passing: Terrance Cain
137-215, 1,624 yds, 11 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Eddie Wide
203 carries, 1,069 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Jereme Brooks
56 catches, 696 yds, 7 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior OT Tony Bergstrom
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Griffin McNabb
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Caleb Schlauderaff
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Asiata, 2) RB Eddie Wide, 3) Schlauderaff
Strength of the offense: Veteran Line, Running Back
Weakness of the offense: Top Receivers, Consistency
Projected Starter: In a stunning midseason move, the coaching staff changed quarterbacks and went with true freshman Jordan Wynn. The move paid off as the 6-1, 195-pounder played well on the fly finishing with 1,329 yards and eight touchdown passes with four interceptions highlighted by a 26-of-36, 338-yard, three score performance in the win over Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl. While the sophomore isn't all that big and he has to improve his completion percentage, hitting on 58% of his throws over the second half of the year, he has a big arm and he's savvy for his age. While he can move a little bit, he's not a spread runner netting just 12 yards in his six games. Not all that big, he has to prove he can withstand a pounding for a full season after suffering a sprained shoulder.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Terrance Cain took over the starting job after coming over from the JUCO ranks and was good, but the offense struggled a bit. He completed a solid 64% of his throws for 1,624 yards and 11 touchdowns with five interceptions, and he also helped out the running game with 318 yards and two scores. Replaced by Jordan Wynn, Cain only attempted one throw and ran five times over the final five games, but he looked great this offseason and could step in whenever needed to provide more of a rushing threat. The 5-11, 194-pounder isn't big, but he can move.
Griff Robles isn't a normal freshman. The 6-4, 230-pound bomber came to the team in 2007 but left to go on a church mission. A big-time prospect and a great recruit three years ago, he has the potential to add more to the passing game even if he's not the perfect fit for what the offense likes to do. He's not a statue, but he's not going to scare anyone by running.
Watch Out For … Cain and Robles to see time this year. Wynn might be the unquestioned starter and the one the coaching staff wants to build around, but he was banged up in spring ball and the backups looked terrific. There are good options if Wynn struggles or is hurt.
Strength: Passers. Wynn had a good day against Cal, but he wasn't always accurate and he made expected freshman mistakes. However, he was still terrific. Cain is a bit more polished and Robles can wing it around. Passing efficiency won't be a problem.
Weakness: Can everyone be happy? There's a pecking order and everyone knows Wynn is the starter, but Cain is good enough to start for almost anyone else in the Mountain West. Wynn will throw a few picks, and while he's expected to become a star, if he's not great right away there might be some who think the JUCO veteran, Cain, might be a safer option for the strong team.
Outlook: The quarterbacks are so deep that Corbin Louks, a terrific running option, took off for Nevada. Wynn is the franchise playmaker the team will work around for the next three years, Cain is a dangerous dual-threat option, and Robles is a good third option who'll be more than fine in an emergency.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Projected Starters: Senior Matt Asiata appeared to be on his way to a special season before tearing his ACL in the fourth game of the year against Louisville. The 5-11, 229-pounder could've been in the NFL right now, but he received an extra year of eligibility and he's back to bring the power to the offense. The former JUCO transfer tore up Utah State for 156 yards and two touchdowns in the opener and finished with 330 yards and four scores in his limited time after rushing for 707 yards and 12 scores in 2008. Not just a runner, he caught nine passes for 88 yards and even lined up at quarterback working out of the Asiata Formation.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Eddie Wide took over the rushing workload after Matt Asiata went down for the year, and he came up with first-team All-Mountain West season rushing for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns and catching 17 passes for 154 yards and a score. The 5-10, 195-pounder is a former Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year and is a quicker option than the offense normally uses. Even though he's not a big power back, he's tough and is extremely productive whenever he gets his chance averaging 5.3 yards per shot and rushing for 100 yards or more in a stretch of six games in the middle of last season. He won't have to do as much this year, but he could be more effective with less wear and tear.
Sophomore Sausan Shakerin could have a hard time finding carries with Matt Asiata back, but he's too dangerous to not get a few touches a game. The 6-2, 222-pounder is big, strong, and quick. The powerful "Shak" averaged 5.5 yards per carry last season rushing for 198 yards and a touchdown, with 100 yards coming against New Mexico. He'll be a star if he's the featured ball-carrier.
Watch Out For … Wide to not be ignored. Asiata is less than a year removed from his serious knee injury, and while he's still powerful enough to see most of the work from time to time, Wide is too good to sit on the sidelines. He won't carry the ball 203 times again, but he'll be good for at least ten touches a game.
Strength: Talent. How deep are the Utes? Shakerin would probably be a first-team All-Mountain West star for anyone else. It's not a bad thing to have too many good backs to get the ball to.
Weakness: Asiata's knee. He was held out of drills this offseason as he needed time to recover, and Wide didn't get much real work to save him for the season. Shakerin can handle the work, but the running game goes from great to special if Asiata is healthy.
Outlook: As always, the Utes will tear off more than 2,000 yards on the ground and well over 20 scores, but unlike past years almost all the production will come from the running backs. With Asiata, Wide, and Shakerin, there's no reason to let anyone else take a pounding.
Unit Rating: 9
Projected Starters: Senior Jereme Brooks might not be a true No. 1 target, but he'll act like one after finishing second on the team with 56 catches for 696 yards and seven touchdowns. Working at the H position, the super-quick target should be a favorite go-to playmaker while the rest of the receiving corps works its way into their jobs. Only 5-7 and 170 pounds, he's not the most physical of receivers, but he's terrific with the ball in his hands being used as a runner, gaining 51 yards and a score on six carries, and racking up big yards after the catch.
Former JUCO transfer Shaky Smithson came on at the end of last year finishing with 13 catches for 100 yards while being used as a lightning-fast running back, gaining 198 yards and a score on 36 carries, to go along with his receiver duties. Also a top punt and kickoff returner, the former all-star high school quarterback and basketball player out of L.A. will be used in a variety of ways.
Working at the outside X position will be 6-1, 201-pound sophomore Luke Matthews, a good-sized speedster who caught nine passes for 108 yards in a limited role and he also saw time as a punt returner. A tough target with tremendous athleticism and great weight room strength, he has all the tools to quickly become special.
Utah almost never throws to the tight ends, but 6-5, 236-pound sophomore Kendrick Moeai might be too good not to change that. He only caught four passes for 77 yards, but he scored twice, both against Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl, and he'll see far more work this season with field-stretching quickness and nice hands. A great blocker, he'll grow into one of the league's best all-around tight ends.
Projected Top Reserves: Is Griffin McNabb really the next Steve Smith? Not even close, but he was so good this offseason that he could go from walk-on to No. 1 target if everything breaks right. Only 5-8 and 168 pounds, he's extremely small, isn't a blazer at the Z, and he isn't physical, but he catches everything that comes his way and he's a great route runner. He'll work in a rotation with Shaky Smithson.
6-3, 195-pound redshirt freshman Sean Fitzgerald is back after signing with the team in 2006. After spending a few years on a church mission, he has all his eligibility and has the potential to quickly grow into a major playmaker. A very smart, good-sized receiver, he's a deep threat on the X and should see time in four-wide sets.
Serving once again as the backup tight end is Brad Clifford, a 6-4, 248-pound senior who won't get any passes his way, but he has the athleticism to be a factor if used. He made one catch for -2 yards last season and has mostly been used as a blocker.
Watch Out For … McNabb. After dominating in spring ball and with a ton of hype around his performances, the smallish redshirt freshman will be given every shot to show what he can do when the lights are on.
Strength: Quickness. The passing game should come up with several big plays and it should average over 12 yards per catch, and a lot of the production will come after the grab is made. Brooks is fast, Smithson is dangerous, and Matthews can get deep. The athleticism is there.
Weakness: David Reed. Utah always seems to get production even after losing top players (last year there was a major concern about losing Freddie Brown, Bradon Godfrey, and Brent Casteel), but not having a talented No. 1 target like Reed will still hurt. He caught 81 passes for 1,188 yards, while the second-leading receiver, Brooks, caught 56 passes for 696 yards. The No. 3 receiver caught 26 passes.
Outlook: The receiving corps might end up being fine, but there will be a little bit less of an emphasis on the passing attack with so many good running backs to carry the offensive workload. It'll be a passing-game-by-committee with Brooks the best of the go-to options and with different receivers stepping up on different days. This won't be a weakness by any stretch, but it's not going to be a special corps.
Unit Rating: 6
Projected Starters: Four starters are back on the offensive line, but the one loss is a huge one with All-America tackle Zane Beadles done. Getting the first look at the spot is redshirt freshman Percy Taumoelau, a 6-4, 300-pound power blocker who was courted by BCS schools like Arkansas and Washington State, and showed off the talent this offseason to be ready to step in and shine. Tremendously strong with great lateral movement, he's a natural for the position as long as he stays in shape. If he's around 300 pounds, he'll be fine.
The star of the line will likely be senior Caleb Schlauderaff, a 6-4, 302-pound senior who has improved as his career has gone on. The second-team All-Mountain West right guard is the team's best run blocker and is a rock in pass protection. He got a look at left tackle this offseason, but he's far better suited at guard.
After making a big move to center, Zane Taylor is poised and ready for another All-Mountain West season after earning second-team honors last year. The 6-2, 309-pound senior is a very smart, very tough quarterback for the offense and was a rock after moving over from right guard. After starting out as a defensive tackle, he has become a whale of a blocker and he should close out his career as the league's top center.
Returning to his spot at right tackle is junior Tony Bergstrom after holding down the job every game last year. The 6-6, 304-pounder will be 24 by the start of the season after taking off for two years in 2005 for a church mission. With good size and toughness, he's a good pass blocker but he's not an elite one. He's better when he gets to put his hands on a defender and push, and he could move around where needed if the line has to do some shuffling.
Sophomore Tevita Stephens can play either center or guard, and he'll start out at right guard after taking over the job midway through last year. The 6-1, 300-pounder bulked up and is a strong, physical run blocker with good quickness. He'll be a part of a rotation and could end up starting at left guard from time to time if needed.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 304-pound sophomore Sam Brenner would've gotten a long look at left tackle and would get a better shot at the right guard gig if he wasn't hurt. He suffered a broken foot in spring ball and wasn't able to take over a job, but he's big enough and talented enough to step in and start right away. He'll get his chances in fall practices.
USC, Tennessee, Miami and Oklahoma, among several others, wanted JUCO transfer John Cullen and Utah got him. The 6-5, 270-pound junior is an undersized but athletic lineman who's ready to step in and start at left tackle. Considered to be the nation's best JUCO lineman, he's a punishing run blocker and impossible to get around in pass protection. He'll find a spot somewhere if he doesn't beat out Percy Taumoelau for the job.
Watch Out For … the battle at left tackle. It should say something that Utah loses a player like Beadles and isn't all that worried about filling the spot. Taumoelau, Cullen, or even Bergstrom or Brenner could step in and be fine.
Strength: Experience. With four starters returning and the depth to push the front line guys for jobs, the Utes have the talent and the veteran to be great. This is a big, versatile line that should be a plus as the year goes on.
Weakness: Good defensive lines. There might be a few all-stars and plenty of talented options all across the front, but there isn't a world of top-shelf talent. TCU, BYU, and Cal were all able to stop the run without a problem, while Oregon's line played a great game in the 31-24 win.
Outlook: For the most part, Utah's line will be a plus and will control and dominate, but this isn't a brick wall against good pass rushing lines and it has to get more physical and nastier for the ground game. Even though this might not be an elite line, it'll be among the best in the Mountain West.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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Utah Depth Chart
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