Utah vs. UNLV Position Breakdowns

Who has the edge at each position? InsideTheUtes.com breaks down the battles...

The matchups:

Jordan Wynn or Terrance Cain vs. Omar Clayton and/or Mike Clausen
The Rebels used both quarterbacks against Wisconsin without much success. They started the game with Clausen who went 4-10 for 23 yards before bringing on Clayton who wasn't much better at 6-16 for 82 yards. Clayton has been the starter for the past few seasons, but coach Bobby Hauk seems intent on using both players. Clausen is more of a prototypical drop-back passer while Clayton can make plays with his legs as evidenced by his team leading 59 yards on the ground against the Badgers. Wynn had a solid first half against Pitt before a late redzone interception and then a poor second half where he seemed to be bothered by a sprained thumb that he suffered at some point early in the game. He has practiced this week, but is not 100% and the coaches are yet to give an indication as to whether he will play. Terrance Cain is more than adequate as a backup and brings more of a running threat than Wynn. Advantage: Utah

Running Back
Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide vs. Channing Trotter and CJ Cox
Trotter ran for 541 yards in 2009, but put up a fat zero on three carries against a stout Wisconsin run D. Cox had 5 carries for 25 yards in his season debut. Both are good sized backs at over 200 pounds. If the Rebels want to keep this one close, they'll need to do better than the 64 yards rushing they received from their four running backs. Wide and Asiata didn't get the carries that many anticipated against Pitt with the passing game doing most of the damage. The duo had 25 carries for 112 total yards, but only 9 of those carries went to Wide. Asiata picked up an extra 5 or 6 carries in overtime as the coaches made him the feature back in the extra frame. While neither was outstand, both were good enough to help get the Utes the win. UNLV gave up 278 yards rushing last week. If Wynn doesn't play, can the Utes put up 250? Advantage: Utah

Wide Receiver
Jereme Brooks , Luke Matthews, Shaky Smithson and DeVonte Christopher vs. Phillip Payne and Michael Johnson
Like last week, the Utes' opponent has the best wide receiver on the field. This time it's Phillip Payne, who may be the best in the Mountain West Conference. Payne went for 71 yards and a touchdown on 4 catches in the opener, but is the kind of guy who can put up 10 catches and 150 yards in a game. Michael Johnson is a dependable slot receiver who had 6 catches against Utah in 2009, but only 2 for 9 yards to start the year against Wisconsin. Jereme Brooks had the first half of a lifetime against Pitt with two touchdowns, finishing the game with 5 catches for 87 yards. DeVonte Christopher took advantage of a few Shaky Smithson miscues and turned in the MWC offensive player of the week performance with 8 catches for 155 yards and a 61 yard touchdown. If Christopher can continue that kind of play against his hometown school this week, the Utes could put up 50-60 points. Matthews and Smithson need to step up to solidify their starting spots after each making only one catch in week 1. Shaky also needs to hang on to the ball after fumbling twice. Advantage: Utah

Tight End
Brad Clifford/Kendrick Moeia vs. Austin Harrington
Harrington is a former walk-on who made his first career start against Wisconsin. He went without a catch and only had 2 career catches. The Utes' tight ends didn't fare much better as Kendrick Moeia hauled in only 1 catch for 6 yards in week 1. With Jordan Wynn being injured, this might not be the weekend for the offense to open up and use the tight ends as much as they were used in fall camp. It will happen as the season goes on though. Advantage: Even

Left Tackle
John Cullen vs. Matt Murphy
Cullen had a great game against All American Greg Romeus, not allowing a sack of Jordan Wynn and dominating Romeus after a tough second series. Murphy is one of the best tackles in the conference and has started 33 games in his career. While Cullen exceeded expecatations in game 1, the experience of Murphy wins out. Advantage: UNLV

Left Guard
Caleb Schlauderaff vs. John Gianninoto
Gianninoto made the move from center to guard in the fall after starting all twelve games in the middle in 2009. He's a very good player and could be an All MWC performer this year….but he's not Caleb Schlauderaff. Schlauderaff was again stellar against Pitt anchoring the run game and keeping Jordan Wynn clean. Advantage: Utah

Zane Taylor vs. Andrew Mack
Mack is a true sophomore who made his first career start against Wisconsin. Taylor is a senior and arguably one of the top 5 centers in the nation. Need I say more? Advantage: Utah

Right Guard
Tevita Stevens vs. Doug Zismann
Zissman is another sophomore who made his first career start against UNLV Stevens did a great job against Pitt of paving the way for a few great Eddie Wide runs to the right. While both are young players, Stevens has seen the field a lot more than Zismann. Advantage: Utah

Right Tackle
Tony Bergstrom vs. Evan Marchal
Marchal is a giant at 6'7" and 320 pounds. He's started 25 straight games for the rebels and is stellar in pass protection. Bergstrom was arguably the best offensive lineman for the Utes shutting down Jabaal Sheard and opening holes for Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata. For the second straight week, the right tackle position is about as close as it can be. Advantage: Even

Defensive Ends
Junior Tui'one and Christian Cox/Derrick Shelby vs. James Dunlap and B.J. Bell/Preston Brooks
B.J. Bell is the younger brother of former MWC Defensive Player of the Year Beau Bell. He made his first career start against Wisconsin and finished with 6 tackles. Brooks will split time with Bell after notching 1 tackle last week. He is a large man at 6'3" and 280 lbs. Dunlap is another Rebel who made his first career start in week 1 finishing with 4 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. None of the three ends for UNLV have a career sack. The Utah defensive ends were even better than expected as Tui'one and Cox had outstanding games. Shelby didn't make an appearance against Pitt until the second half, but was effective in his short amount of time. More experience and better players give the Utes a big edge. Advantage: Utah

Defensive Tackle
Sealver Siliga and Dave Kruger vs Isaako Aaitui and Ramsey Feagai
Aaitui is a big kid at 6'4" and 315 lbs and has 20 career starts. He's one of the best defensive tackles in the conference. Feagai made his second career start against Wisconsin and finished with 1 tackle. The Utah tandem of Siliga and Kruger was unreal against Pitt with Siliga looking like an All American, constantly blowing up the line. UNLV, like Pitt, isn't strong inside on the offensive line. Kruger and Siliga could have big days again. Advantage: Utah

Chad Manis, Matt Martinez, Chaz Walker vs Starr Fuimaono, Ronnie Paulo, and Calvin Randleman
Linbacker is the strength of the UNLV defense with two very good players in Fuimaono and Paulo. Both have been starters since their freshman years and should be All MWC players by year's end. Randleman made his first career start against Wisconsin and had 7 tackles, including a tackle for loss. The Utah linebackers were a huge question going into the season and performed very well in holding Dion Lewis to a career low rushing total of 75 yards. Walker finished with 11 tackles and Manis did a great job of taking on blockers and making plays. If J.J. Williams plays this weekend, Martinez may get bumped to the second string. This is much closer than it would have been if this game was played last week. Advantage: UNLV

Brandon Burton and Lamar Chapman vs. Will Chandler and Sidney Hodge
Chandler returned his first career interception for a 19 yard touchdown, as well as returned a fumble for another 82 yards to setup a UNLV touchdown. He has good size and will match up with other team's premier receiver this season. Hodge is a true freshman who came up with 6 tackles in his debut. He's a tiny guy at only 5'8." Jordan Wynn and/or Terrance Cain should be licking their chops. Burton looked like an All American against Pitt shutting down Jon Baldwin. Lamar Chapman was also stellar in his fifth career start. Advantage: Utah

Free Safety
Justin Taplin-Ross vs. Mike Grant
Grant made the move from corner to safety in the offseason after starting five games in 2009. He has 1 career interception and came up with 6 tackles against Wisconsin. JTR was instrumental in shutting down the Pitt passing game as well as helping in run support. The experience of Grant evens this out. Advantage: Even

Strong Safety
Brian Blechen vs Alex De Giacomo
De Giacomo started six games in 2009 and came up with 10 tackles against Wisconsin. He's a veteran player, but a little undersized for a strong safety. Blechen was the hero in his first career game, making an interception in overtime to help garner MWC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He did a great job helping shadow Jon Baldin of Pitt and was all over the field. He did make a few freshman mistakes, but was still impressive. Advantage: Even

Joe Phillips vs. Nolan Kohorst
Kohorst is a true freshman and came in highly regarded out of high school. He's yet to attempt a field goal, but was 3 for 3 on PATs. All Phillips did in week 1 was go 2 for 2 and hit the game winner in overtime. The kid is clutch and one of the best in the nation. Advantage: Utah

Sean Sellwood vs Brendon Lamers
Lamers was busy in week 1 with 8 punts for an average of 34.4 yards. Sellwood has a huge leg and had 2 big kicks, including one that was downed inside the 10 against Pitt. He also had a punt blocked and shanked a 25 yarder in the final minutes setting up Pitt for the game tying drive. Sellwood needs to be better, but still gets the nod. Advantage: Utah

Kick/Punt Returner
Shaky Smithson vs. Marcus Sullivan/Deante' Purvis
Purvis had a kickoff return for a touchdown in 2009 and averaged 23.3 yards per return. Sullivan returned his first career punt last week for 20 yards. Shaky is going to get a second shot to return kicks after fumbling a punt that he never should have tried to catch against Pitt and was yanked from those duties until later in the game. Advantage: Even

Totals- Utah 11 UNLV 2 Even 5

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