Scouting Utah

The Wildcats begin their season with a familiar foe. For the fourth time in six seasons the Cats and the Utes hook up in an early season game. Although Utah lost quite a bit from last year, they still can present problems for Arizona, and are coming off an impressive undefeated season with a win in the Fiesta bowl.

Arizona (0-0) vs. Utah (0-0)
Date: September 2nd, 2005
Time: 5:00 p.m. MDT
Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Rod Gilmore, Trevor Matich, Stacey Dales-Schuman)
Radio: 1290 AM Tucson (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett, Sean Mooney)
Pregame: Coach's show replay at 1:00. Pete Delgado, Brad Allis and John Schuster at 2:00. Ryan Radtke at 4:00.

Last year, going into the Utah game, the Wildcats were coming off the win over NAU in which the offense did not show everything we saw during the Spring and Fall scrimmages. The Utes on the other hand were coming off a nice win over Texas A&M beating them handedly 41-21. Texas A&M was no walkover either, as they went on to win the next six in a row, and later loosing by seven points against Oklahoma, putting up 35 on the Sooner Defense.

Opening up the Offense wasn't enough though, as the Wildcats gave up key turnovers, including one on the first play that landed Mike Bell on and off the bench all night long. Two of the others occurred in the five trips to the Red Zone. When it was all over, the Wildcats scored on two of their other three chances in the Red Zone, both times settling for field goals.

Steve Savoy caught seven passes for 95 yards, catching both of Alex Smith's touchdown passes. Marty Johnson was one of only five running backs who were able to rush for over 100 yards against the Arizona Defense all year. Johnson also scored a touchdown in his 18 rushing attempts.

All three of those players mentioned above have moved on, and won't be on the field for Utah this time around. Even with these three look at some of these stats from the game last year:

Utah – Arizona
First Downs: 18-18
Total Yards: 326-312
Possession Time: 28:24-31:36
Red Zone Chances: 4-5

Are those the type of stats you expect to see when the score ends up being 23-6? No! At least, not until you throw in the Fumbles (0-4). Utah returns a team that is missing their three impact players from last year. And as a team that didn't have an easy time with Arizona to begin with, they also lose their Head Coach.

Although Utah loses great deal from last year, let us see who is left.

Offensively, there are no longer any big time threats at the skill positions. The best talent here is going to be on the line. Center Jesse Boone is a 300+lbs beast who is quick on his feet for that size, and Guard David Dirkmaat at 6-7 and 311lbs can also play Tackle, and could possibly play either position in the NFL in the future.

Although there are no stars at Running Back, what Utah does have here is depth. Both Daryl Poston and Mike Liti are capable of being decent backups to Quinton Ganther, but both have had recent injuries that leave them as question marks if they are required to carry the load all year. Playing Utah this early, those questions won't be a major concern during our game.

Utah's receivers are the biggest cause of concern for the Utes. Travis LaTendresse and John Madsen, both former walk-ons, combined for 54 catches and 788 yards in 12 games in 2004. One time Sun Devil, Brian Hernandez, is a possible bright spot in 2005. He caught 50 passes for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns with the Pima Community College football team last year while earning first-team all-conference and first-team all-region recognition. While this group may be respectable at best, until proven otherwise, going against one of the best secondary units in the Pac-10 will present some major problems for their passing attack.

Defensively however, the Utes will present a challenge for the Wildcats newly improved Offense. The fact still remains that Arizona had close to the worse Offenses in the nation, and it will take time to change that. This is not the type of defense the coaches would ideally like to start with to reverse that trend.

Linebacker Spencer Toone was the leading tackler last year, and is looking to continue that team-leading stat throughout this year. He is very intelligent in the game, and won't miss many chances to take down anyone within reach. Whoever ends up getting the other two LB spots on this roster will be exploitable one-on-one, making this unit a weakness, as long as the ball doesn't get close to Toone.

The Defensive Line will be a good test for the Wildcats Offensive Line. Steve Fifita is among the better DT's in the nation and will pose problems for Kili Lefotu and Erick Levitre. Utah brings in two really good pass rushing Ends in Martail Burnett and Marquess Ledbetter that will cause problems in the passing game for Offensive Coordinator Mike Canales. The question here is, how well do we get the running game established to help out the passing game. Unfortunately, Utah has plenty of big men for the middle to keep everyone fresh throughout the game. This line is such a great strength on the Utes defense, that it will make an average MWC secondary a little better then average.

If the Arizona D-Line can get some pressure to the new Quarterback Brian Johnson, the secondary will get off to a great start as it did early on in 2004. The Offensive line will have to be outstanding early on in every aspect to help the overall balance of the offensive attack.

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