Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

Trench Report: Utah

The trench report gives an overview of the offensive line play during the most recent game. The top performer gets the Golden Sled, a fictitious award that I give with impunity. This award goes to the lineman that scores the best on my grading system.

Since I have no idea what they are taught or what the goals of each play are, I am going to go based on what they did and the result.  Each player can get a 1 - 4 grade:

1 - Huge play block.  

This block led to a score directly or a game changing play for the good guys.  1’s are rare, but if they are not rare then you are winning championships.

2 - Mission accomplished.
This block was solid, the block-ee was not part of the play and the technique looked solid. This is a winning level score.  If a lineman averages close to or better than 2, then they dominated.

3. Mission Barely Accomplished.  

The play was ok, but this block didn’t help, or in some cases may have hurt the play.  Or not even been a block.  The closer to 3 a line averages, the less likely they were to have a good offensive day.

4. Fail.

This led to a terrible turn of events, killed a drive, lead to points or ended in a penalty. Averages around 4 will most likely lead to losses.


Players should be aiming for below a 2.25 grade.   That is a consistently high grade that tends to avoid terrible plays (4’s).  Since I don’t give individual grades for technique, start and finish, this is just a general feel of each play. If I knew what play was called and what the goal of each position was, I would do the more accurate 3 part grade.

Team Goals:

2 > : A

2.01 - 2.25: B

2.26 - 2.5: C

2.51 - 3.0: D

3.01 < : F

Season Totals

Minnesota: 2.72 (D -)

Idaho State: 2.73 (D -)

Boise State: Coming Soon

Colorado: 2.69 (D +)

California: 2.46 (C)

Utah: 2.67 (D+)

Utah Utes

Week 6 - Saturday, October 15, 2016

Final: 19 - 14 (L)


Total Line Grade: 2.67 (D+)

Golden Sled Award Winner:

Gus Lavaka: 2.58

Gus Lavaka was solid all game long, and really was the most steady of all the linemen. While he didn’t have many huge blocks or big moments, he didn’t have many bad plays either. He played well enough to win, averaging just above what I consider the baseline for achieving plays’ goals (2.5). Gus is a tough, tough guy that gets a lot of drive. He is not explosive at the point of contact, but he roots guys out well and stays on position. As he gets fitter, he will be better at pulling and will be a force. Right now he is far better than I expected heading into the season.


Best Play Award Winner:

Gavin Andrews and Sean Harlow
On the huge run by Ryan Nall, the blocking by these two was exemplary!


Both Sean Harlow and Gavin Andrews pulled on this play and their jobs were to seal the end and then block out whoever shows outside of that. While the rest of the line collapses down on the remaining defensive linemen, Gavin got out to the end who was left alone and put a key block on him.  Because Utah has such good linemen, he wasn’t really able to circle around him, but instead used his momentum to knock him back and get his weight on his outside foot, while maintaining his grip on him. This block was enough to keep the defender from reaching out to make contact with Nall.


Sean came through and just plowed the linebacker that came up, and shoved him way out of the play. Nall read the block well, seeing that Harlow had the guy and is pushing him outside, and cut up to get a huge gain. From the down blocks by the remaining linemen, to Gavin picking up the end to Sean not just blocking the linebacker but getting his body positioned upfield and shoving him away so even if he missed, the Utah LB would have ti take the Magellan route to get to Nall was beautiful.


It was a perfectly blocked play and the results showed it.



First off, I don’t see this game as a drop in line play from the previous week. The score reflects the caliber of talent upgrade that Utah brought. Cal looked slow, lazy and inept. Utah brought it and our line responded as best it could.  While we had a lot of great blocks, we were again inconsistent. Utah brought a lot of pressure and did a lot of twist stunts that we failed to recognize or handle. Often, two linemen would overcommit to one side of the twist and not be able to react in time to the player coming through on the play. We had a lot of free releases by linebackers or situations where someone would try and block two people and get none of them.


Outside of the communication issues, the thing that I have noticed this season as a common theme is the lack of finish on blocks. This is not easy, but often we get great initial contact, even drive the defender back, but then lose them and they make the play. While sometimes the block was decent and the defender jumps on the pile nine yards down the field, sustaining those blocks allows plays to get their maximum and also keeps defenses from being able to really tell where the ball is. The offense we run is very much a misdirection offense. There were amazing plays where the line blocking was terrible, but the flow of the play took defenders out of position —and just a block on the outside by a receiver or tight end was enough to spring a big play.


We leverage the defensive ends a lot and force them to be disciplined. Sometimes, we will pull block away from the play to pull them down and open up the outside as we did in the long run by Darell Garretson to start the second half. The defensive end followed Harlow on his pull and even just the one or two steps he took were enough for DG to get a huge gain. Those schemes help out linemen a lot, and if we can be a group that finishes blocks, that gets to the second level and stays on the linebackers, and who doesn’t lose defensive linemen at the line of scrimmage, we will get more and more big plays.

Remember, we had eight plays of more than 15 yards and three of 25+ yards. To date we have five plays of over 50 yards. So, this is can be explosive offense that can get yards in a hurry.  These little details may seem like overkill, but if our linemen are burying defenders and finishing blocks, we’re are going to get more yards and more big plays. I try not to grade on a curve. This was a tough defensive front seven we played and they made us work. I lost some faith in the play calling, but these are the types of games we need to get 2's in to win, and be a top-tier team. I was proud of the effort by the offensive line, but there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.


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