We welcome in James Durrant of UteZone.com, who helps us break down the personnel, scheme and storylines out of Salt Lake City headed into Saturday's 3 p.m. kick between California (2-2, 0-1 in Pac-12) and the No. 18 Utes (4-0, 1-0).
At the 1:03 mark, we talk about the injury retirement of Joe Williams, and break down the Utah run game, led by Zack Moss (243 yards), Troy McCormick (180 yards) and Armand Shyne, a former American River Community College teammate of current Bears linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1711859-kaufman-focused-on...At the 3:30 mark, we break down what dual threat quarterback Troy Williams -- formerly of Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne, then of Washington, then Santa Monica City College, before he landed in Salt Lake City. He only has 17 rushing yards, but does that mean Cal should fear a breakout game from him on the ground? Not so fast, says Durrant. Williams took the criticism of him -- that he was too quick to pull the ball down and run -- to heart, and has evolved his game. He's now much more of a pocket passer, going 75-for-120 with four interceptions to six touchdowns, and averaging 248.2 yards per game through the air. What has he improved on? How much zone read and option will we see from the Utes?
At 4:59, we discuss how playing Texas and Arizona State served as midterms for the final exam that is the Utes. While Utah is similar offensively to the attack it featured last season, there is now a more downfield passing game, thanks to Tim Patrick outside, Cory Butler-Byrd in the slot (who's missed time with off-the-field issues) and Troy Williams. One main difference from the Sun Devils and Longhorns was on full display last week, as we started to see more tight end involvement by Utah against USC, with senior Evan Moeai's improved blocking getting him on the field more, catching two balls for 20 yards, and Harrison Handley caching one for 28. Moeai leads the Utes tight ends with eight catches for 78 yards, and is third on the team in receptions. Also mentioned are Raelon Singleton, and Tyrone Smith, who's missed the last two games with injury.
We turn to the defensive side of the ball at 7:30, where Lowell Lotulelei and Kylie Fitts are both out, necessitating the play of Filipo Mokofisi at defensive end on running downs, and some "interesting combinations" up front, including using Mokofisi on the inside, or going with three-end looks. How does Hunter Dimick, the Pac-12 leader in sacks, play into the mix? He may be playing inside.
At 9:19, we address how the losses of Lotulelei and Fitts played into the huge fall-off in run defense against USC, and the loss of all of Utah's three starting linebackers from last season.
At 11:50, we break down the final drive that led the Utes to their big win last week against the Trojans, and what that win did for Utah in the grand scheme of things.
At 13:56, we turn our attention to the defensive backfield of Utah. The Utes picked off Jared Goff five times last year, and bring back almost the whole group, led by safety Marcus Williams, who has two breakups and two picks, lengthy and speedy physical cover man Brian Allen (three breakups), Dominique Hatfield, as well as nine-game starter from 2015, Reginald Porter. Utah -- the second-best total defense, and No. 3 passing defense in the Pac-12 -- will play man-press coverage with a single high safety, which could open up room for Chad Hansen.
Utah leads the conference with 16 sacks, but at 17:20, we find out how that could be affected by the losses up front. Where is the pressure going to come from? Dimick, for one, who leads the Pac-12 in sacks, as well as tackles for loss. Pita Taumoepenu could also provide some pressure off the edge, with three tackles for loss and two sacks. There will also be some zone blitzes, but we'll see mainly a four-man rush, and occasionally a five-man rush.