Utah vs. USC: Position Battles

Take a look at how Utah stacks up against USC at each position

Jordan Wynn vs. Matt Barkley

Barkley is the prototypical USC quarterback with a big arm and can hit nearly every throw on the field, plus he's a future NFL first round pick. He also seems to have found a go to target that will be getting the majority of his throws. Last week against Minnesota, Barkley keyed in on Robert Woods who caught 17 of the QB's 34 completions.

Wynn is still an unknown after shoulder surgery and last week against Montana State he was inaccurate at times and was not given too many difficult throws to make such as the deep ball. Play calling was attributed to not knowing what Wynn can do now and expect that to change. If his shoulder is still bothering him and limits what he can do, USC will have a huge quarterback advantage of the Utes.

Advantage: USC

Running backs
John White, Tauni Vakapuna, Harvey Langi, Karl Williams vs. Marc Tyler, D.J. Morgan, Curtis McNeal, Dilon Baxter

The Utes found their starter last week in John White who had a solid game with 150 yards, but it was against Montana State. However, White showed that he can run up the middle and is not always trying to get outside. How he performs against a much tougher front seven in USC will be a better gauge on who the JC transfer really is. Vakapuna is the primary backup and hobbled ,had only 10 carries and did not look good while rushing for only 16 yards If Vakapuna struggles or can't go, look for Langi or Williams to get a chance.

The USC backfield is very crowded where they will go three to four deep at the position. They get back Marc Tyler back from his one game suspension and he is their only true power back, but he's not listed as the starter so his nuber of carries and impact is still unknown. Tyler is the Trojans leading rusher from 2010. Dilon Baxter is another question mark, he was touted as the next Reggie Bush after a great spring he had in 2010, but last year he rarely saw the field and in their opener against Minnesota he had only one touch. The listed starter is redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan had only 70 yards against a Minnesota defense that was ranked last in the Big 10 in 2010. Utah's front seven is much better than Minnesota's so the Trojans may struggle in the running game on Saturday against Star Lotulelei and company.

Advantage: Even

Luke Matthews, Dalin Rogers vs. Rhett Ellison

These two positions are completely different from each other on Utah and USC. USC uses the traditional sense of a fullback with Ellison being a lead blocker for the Trojan running game and an extra blocker in passing downs to pick up the blitz. Matthews and Rogers for Utah are an extra offensive weapon in the passing and receiving game and are players to be accounted for.

Advantage: Even

Tight ends
Kendrick Moeai vs. Xaxier Grimble

The Utes went heavy to the tight ends last week, with the group accounting for 10 receptions. Moeai does have nice hands and hauled in five receptions in the opener. Grimble was the top tight end in the 2010 class and redshirted last year, but he was said to have great hands as well as having the ability to block even at his 245 pound frame. In the opener Grimble was used in blocking situations and only caught one pass for one yard.  

Advantage: Utah

Wide receivers
Devonte Christopher, Reggie Dunn, Dres Anderson vs. Robert Woods, Marqise Lee

The Utah passing game will depend on how well Jordan Wynn throws them the ball. In the first game of the season the top receivers were a tight end and fullback making the Montana State matchup was a tough game to evaluate Utah's receivers. Christopher, who is considered the Utes best receiver only had two catches for 11 yards. Christopher is the most experienced receiver for Utah and should bounce back. Dunn and Anderson did not catch a pass in the opening game, and neither have too much experience.

USC is all about Woods who caught 17 passes for 177 yards in their win over Minnesota. Expect USC to target Woods as often as possible in the passing game, because if the ball is in his area Woods will catch it. While Lee is a starter he is considered more of a complimentary receiver and being a true freshman he still has a high learning curve in the Trojan offense which could lead to miscues.

Advantage: USC

Left tackle
John Cullen vs. Matt Kalil

Cullen sat out the Montana State game due to a concussion but he is back in the starting lineup. He has added on some extra weight and is finally above 300 pounds and will be a force going up against the defensive end the Trojans place on Cullen. Kalil has all the talent and has been expected to be a first- or second-round draft pick. He has not underperformed but expectations are high. He did a good job protecting Barkley last week against Minnesota, but it was against Minnesota and the Utah front is much better.

Advantage: Even

Left guard
Vyncent Jones vs. Jeremy Galten

Jones is making only his second career start and in the opener against Montana State held his own quite well. His inexperience could be an issue against USC and with Utah's depth issue they will need Jones to perform. USC has Galten who is a junior college transfer and the first to start after making the jump since 1990. Galten is a versatile guard who is equally as good in the running game as he is in pass protection. 

Advantage: USC

Tevita Stevens vs. Khaled Holmes

Stevens made his first start at center after starting the past two years at guard and he stepped in quite fine at center and he graded fairly well at his new position against Montana State. Holmes was on various pre-season Pac-12 teams lists and is in contention of being one of the best center's in the league. Plus, Holmes was listed as a candidate for the Outland Trophy which is given to the nation's top interior lineman. Holmes also made the move from starting guard to starting center.

Advantage: USC

Right tackle
Tony Bergstrom vs. Kevin Graf

Bergstrom graded the highest out of all the lineman in the Montana State game and will be a stout opponent against the USC defensive line. Bergstrom is on various preseason watch lists and is considered one of the best tackles in the Pac-12. Graf is possibly the weakest link on the USC offensive line as Graf is only a sophomore and a first time starter. His size is his strength and that will help him against the Utah front.

Advantage: Utah

Right guard
Sam Brenner vs. John Martinez

Brenner is also another Ute settling in as a full-time starter at their respective position. Brenner graded out just as well as Tony Begstrom did against Montana State. Martinez, out of the Salt Lake City area, is on the lighter side of being an offensive lineman at 290 pounds and is a first year starter.

Advantage: Utah

Defensive end
Joe Kruger, Derrick Shelby vs. Nick Perry, Wes Horton

Kruger and Shelby are a great combo at the end spot and both have the ability to get in the backfield and stop plays before they begin. Last week Shelby was able to get a sack and a tackle for a loss. These two may not always show up in the stat book with sacks and tackles for loss, but they will cause pressure in the backfield and can open up other players if either sees double teams. 

Perry is the better of the two as he is a speed rusher coming off the end and that showed in their opener as he had a sack and a tackle for a loss. Plus, Perry was able to earn five tackles, but he is a player that will cause opposing tackles issue with his speed. Horton is a similar player to Perry as Horton had four sacks last year for the Trojans. 

Advantage: Even

Defensive tackle

James Aiona, Dave Kruger, Star Lotulelei vs. DaJohn Harris, Christian Tupou

The Utes are set between Aiona and Kruger with both being listed as a starting possibility, so expect to see a rotation between the two. Lotulelei is a player that USC must look out for as he is expected to have a big year. In the first game against Montana State he was a force across the line but he did not accumulate any box score stats outside of one tackle. He is a player that teams will need to double team and that will open things up for other players. 

Harris is the best down lineman for USC and he showed that against Minnesota with six tackles, .5 sack and two tackles for a loss. He is a player that can break through most offensive lines and cause trouble. Tupou is coming back from a knee injury that kept him out all of 2010, prior to that he was a two-year starter at the nose tackle position and received Pac-10 honors in 2009.

Advantage: USC

Brian Blechen, Chaz Walker, Matt Martinez vs. Dion Bailey, Chris Galippo, Hayes Pullard

The Utah trio is possibly the best in the Pac-12. Blechen's first ever start at the linebacker position yielded two interceptions and seven tackles while Walker had 10 tackles. The somewhat undersized unit was all over the field on Montana State, but will be facing a much bigger and athletic team in USC.

Galippo is on the preseason Butkus award list and against Minnesota had a fairly good game with six tackles and 2.5 for a loss. He is an experienced senior and is expected to have a breakout year now that he seems mostly healed from injuries that have haunted him at the college level. Bailey is making the move from safety to linebacker, but he had a full season to get accustomed to the position during his redshirt season. Pullard is an athletic and speed linebacker who was all over the field making plays against Minnesota last week with eight tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss.

Advantage: Utah

Ryan Lacy, Conroy Black vs.Nickell Robey, Torin Harris

Both Lacy and Black made the first start of their careers last week played fairly well. Whichever Utah corner gets the assignment to guard Robert Woods will need to be on top of their game, especially since the Utes run a strict man-to-man coverage scheme for much of the game. Lacy needs to avoid the penalties that hampered him in week 1. 

Harris was a key backup last year and has moved into the starting spot and already made his presence felt with an interception against Minnesota. Being 6-feet-1-inches tall, Harris takes away the advantage of some receivers who rely on their height to make plays. Robey is one of the team leaders for USC and can stay with any receiver with his 4.4 speed and cover skills. In week one Robey broke up a pass and nearly had an interception.

Advantage: USC

Eric Rowe, Michael Walker, and Keith McGill vs. Jawanza Starling, T.J. McDonald

The Utes will likely use a three safety rotation against the Trojans like they did against Montana State. Rowe and Walker got the starts, but McGill saw plenty of time as well. All three played fairly well in the opener with a few small mistakes here and there, but will need to be on top of their game against one of the top pass-catch duos in the country in Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. The speed of the Trojans wide outs is really going to test this unit and let us know whether or not they're ready to compete in the Pac 12. McGill has all of the measurables to do so and will need a big game.

McDonald is a returning starter and was named as a preseason All-American. He led the Trojans in tackles in 2010, had a blocked punt, three interceptions and three passes he broke up. McDonald is all over the field waiting to make a play and will be someone Jordan Wynn will need to keep an eye on passing situations. Starling is a returning starting who played in nine games last before he suffered an injury and is a superb athlete as he plays outfield for the USC baseball team.

Advantage: USC

Sean Sellwood vs. Kyle Negrete

There is not much separation between the two they both averaged 37 yards per punt.

Advantage: Even

Coleman Petersen vs. Andre Heidari

It is hard to rate the USC kicker since Lane Kiffin elected to go for a two-point conversion twice in the win over Minnesota. Heidari attempted only one extra point which he made. Petersen had a long of 44-yards, going two-for-two on field goals, and making all three extra point attempts.

Advantage: Utah

Griff Mcnabb, Ryan Lacy, Reggie Dunn vs. Robert Woods, Curtis McNeal, Nickell Robey

Robert Woods is the most dangerous out of this group as he averaged 23 yards per kick return against Minnesota over the weekend on three returns and is a threat to break one at any time. All of the Utah returners have elite speed to be able to have a good return each time and if they get a key block can turn that into a big return.

Advantage: USC

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