Utah Preview – Offense


Utah, a pre-season pick to win the Pac12 South, limp’s into Saturday’s contest with an 0-3 Pac12 record. While Utah was and is certainly deserving of admittance to the Pac12, and will do well with time, they’ve strugged with the Saturday-to-Saturday rigors of Pac12 play. The issue was compounded when starting QB Jordan Wynn went down (it is unclear if he will play Saturday). That said, they face the Cal Bears who are also 0-3 and Pac12 play (both against difficult schedules) in what will be a key game if either team wants to keep their bowl hopes (reasonably) alive.

Jordan Wynn was a fairly highly regarded QB coming into the season, and with some good reason. In his first two years (2009 and 2010), he had over a 130 passer rating, a 60% completion rate, and threw 25 TDs against 14 interceptions. Most notably, he had a huge game in Utah’s 37-27 comeback win over Cal in the Pointsettia Bowl, a game in which he was 26 of 36 for 338 yards and 3 TDs. However, he’s struggled in the early going – while he has 6 TDs against 2 interceptions, his passer rating, completion percentage and YPA were all down from prior years (though this was probably to be expected with the jump in competition). He was injured in the game against Washington, and was replaced with Jon Hays. Outside the slightly uglier 3 TD/4Int ratio, Hays has been comparable to Wynn this year, with a similar overall passer rating and a better completion percentage (60%) and YPA (6.89). This is Hays’ first year in the program, a transfer from Butte College (a school Cal fans are familiar with). He’s been capable, if he lacks Wynn’s accurate and catchable ball.

Running Backs:
5’9″, 190 pound junior John White is the #1 back by a large margin. He’s run for 671 yards, a 5.2 yard average, and 6 TDs on the year. He’s also a transfer – from Los Angeles Harbor College. He’s fast and shifty, and has surprised some with his durability considering his (relatively) small frame.

The other primary rushing threats are Reggie Dunn (6’0, 173) and Harvey Langi. Langi, in particular, was Utah’s top recruit and is likely the future of Utah’s running game. He’s big – 6’1″, 225 – a good changeup from John White’s speed. He hasn’t gotten as much work as one might expect at this stage, with only 8 carries thus far, but has the talent to be a threat. Dunn has been successful rushing from the WR position, sporting a nifty 12.4 YPC average on 7 carries thus far.

Wide Receivers:
DeVonte Christopher (6’1″, 200) and Dres Anderson (6’1″, 185) are the main threats. Christopher is experienced, and uses his size to overpower undersized DBs. He’s also known for his athleticism and ability to pick up yards after the catch. On the year he has 23 receptions for 351 yards, both of which lead the team. Anderson is a redshirt freshman, and is a speedster (like Dunn). Anderson has 18 receptions for 256 yards thus far.

Dallin Rogers, Luke Matthews and Dunn also have made contributions in the passing game, though this group does not have a Paul Richardson, Robert Woods or Keenan Allen to speak of. The group really spreads the ball around, with 5 receivers with 100+ yards in the early going, and none with more than 2 TDs.

Junior Kendrick Moeai is the starting Tight End. A big threat at 6’5″, 250, he’s built like a basketball player and plays like one too.

Offensive Line:
The strength of the line is at the tackle spots, built with seniors Tony Bergrstrom (RT) and John Cullen (LT). They are both 6’5″, 300+ pounders. Bergstrom is the best of the bunch, he has excellent feet and the length to adapt to a range of defensive lineman. Cullen is in his second season, and proved himself an adept run blocker in his first year.

Tavita Stevens (6’1″, 297) is the starting center, a former guard. At the guard spots, the Utes start 6’3″, 300 pound junior Sam Brenner and 6’4″, 314 pound sophomore Percy Taumoelau. In general, this line definitely has Pac12 size but has done a better job in the run game than the passing game.

Biggest Advantage Vs. Cal Defense:
Cal’s run defense has been strong, but Utah’s rush offense has been the strength of its team, and John White its best player thus far. Utah’s OL is better blocking for the run, and the unit has good change of pack back to White in Langi. Particularly in a road game, expect Utah to try to establish the run early and often, particularly having seen what the similarly built Curtis McNeal did against the Bears last week.

Biggest Disadvantage Against Cal Defense:
QB play. Cal’s defense has faced some scary offenses the last three weeks – Keith Price and a talented UW squad, an Oregon offense that needs no introduction, and a USC offense featuring Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. Utah’s offense does not have this level of talent, and gives the beleaguered Cal secondary an opportunity to meet its preseason expectations.