Position Battles: Utah at BYU

The Utes and Cougars square off down in Provo. Who has the edge at each position?

Jordan Wynn vs Jake Heaps
I think it is abundantly clear that we're looking at a different Jordan Wynn than we've seen in the past. The shoulder injury has, at this point, changed the player that he is and the ability he has on the field. Wynn's not going to throw deep, and as we saw Saturday, it affected the run game. Now where Jordan has an advantage over a normal QB that is suffering from the same issues, is in his head. He's smart enough to understand his limitations and we saw it against USC as he managed the game well. 3 touchdowns and no interceptions on the year. Manage the game, don't make mistakes and understand your physical limitations. Heaps on the other hand can chuck it. He can make all the throws, but has struggled with decision making this year, often at inopportune times, and has more interceptions than touchdowns (3 to 2). He's going to be a good quarterback, if not a great one at some point, but the learning curve is tougher when you're going against BCS schools to open the season in Mississippi, Texas, and Utah. Heaps will still throw for a ton of yards against BYU's highly inferior schedule this season, but he'll have his hands full with another elite defense this week. Both of these quarterbacks have their issues right now, and while Heaps has the potential to do more, the game managing of Wynn makes this a draw.
Advantage: Even

Running Back
John White vs J.J. DiLuigi and Bryan Kariya
It's still unclear as to what we're getting in White. He was great against Montana State (albeit an FCS team), and pedestrian against USC (much of the blame goes to the offensive line). White is the shifty speedster, who can run inside and is averaging 103 yards per game with an average of 5.3 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns. DiLuigi is more of a scat-back than an every down runner, but he's received the bulk of the carries in 2011. Kariya is a power runner with his 6-0, 217 pound frame and complements DiLuigi well. The Cougars desperately need more production out of these two as their averaging only 65 yards per game on the ground between them. DiLuigi does add a receiving element though with a team high 8 catches.
Advantage: Even

Wide Receiver
Devonte Christopher, Reggie Dunn, and Dres Anderson vs Cody Hoffman, McKay Jacobson, and Ross Apo
Christopher and Anderson proved that they're going to be elite wide receivers against USC and Dunn continues to bring the speed threat with his 51 yard run on Saturday. As long as they understand Jordan Wynn's limitations and don't get frustrated with what can be done on the field, they'll get better every week. Apo is a redshirt freshman who leads all receivers with 7 catches and has the team's only 2 offensive touchdowns. Jacobson has 5 catches on the year for an average of 8.4 yards per catch after making 37 receptions in 2010. Hoffman led the team last season in receiving yards at over 500 to go along with 7 touchdowns. He's struggled out of the gate this year though with only 20 yards on 3 catches.
Advantage: Utah

Tight End
Kendrick Moeia vs Austin Holt
Moeia had five catches in the opener, but went without a reception against USC. He's averaging 4.6 yards per catch. Holt has 4 catches on the year for a sizable average of 16.8 yards per grab.
Advantage: Even

Left Tackle
John Cullen vs Matt Reynolds
John Cullen had a tough go of it against USC, but won't be facing nearly the same speed and athleticism from BYU. He's still in the top half of left tackles in the Pac 12 and we'll chalk up the struggles against the Trojans to being rusty in his first game of the year. Cullen is too good not to get back on track this week. Cullen's problem in this matchup, as it was for much of last season, is that he's again matched up with an elite left tackle. Matt Reynolds is one of the best in the country and will be an NFL first round pick in April.
Advantage: BYU

Left Guard
Miles Mason vs Houston Reynolds
Mason has filled in admirably on the line since arriving on campus just a few weeks ago. He did struggle some after moving inside from tackle to guard against USC and will need to be better going forward, but like we said with Cullen, the caliber of player he'll be facing against BYU will not be as high as he did last week. Houston is the younger brother of Matt Reynolds and in his first year as a starter. While not the physical specimen his brother is, Reynolds has very good size and is a solid run and pass blocker.
Advantage: Even

Tevita Stevens vs Terence Brown
Stevens graded out against the Trojans much better than I had him based on my initial viewing, but he's still one of the top 5 centers in the Pac 12. A tremendous run blocker, he's the anchor on the line and keeps everyone in check. Stevens has developed into another QB on the field for the Utes and is only going to get better. Brown is in his third year as a starter and is a solid veteran presence who earned All Mountain West Conference honors a year ago and is a future NFL player.
Advantage: Even

Right Guard
Sam Brenner vs Braden Hansen
Brenner has arguably been the Utes most consistent lineman to this point in the season grading out well in both games. Hansen has started 28 straight games since his freshman year and is another Cougar lineman with an NFL future.
Advantage: BYU

Right Tackle
Tony Bergstrom vs Braden Brown
Bergstrom is one of the best right tackles in all of college football and a three year starter. He'll be an All Pac 12 selection by the end of the season. Brown was a part time starter as a freshman and a full time starter last season as he's grown into a very good tackle. A tremendous athlete for his size, Brown has tremendous potential and should be playing on Sundays in the future.
Advantage: Utah

Defensive End
Derrick Shelby and Joe Kruger vs Graham Rowley, Hebron Fanguapo and Ethan Manumaleuna
Shelby and Kruger haven't picked up the sack numbers between them that many anticipated coming into the season, but have been disruptive, especially against USC last week. Shelby has the lone sack, but they do have 3 tackles for loss between them. They'll be tested by the BYU tackles who are one of the top tackle duos in the country. The Cougs are yet to register a sack on the season, but not all of that is on their ends in their 3-4 defense. Some of that pressure should be coming from the outside linebackers. That said, no sacks through 2 games has to be worrisome for Bronco Mendenhall. Fanguapo has been in the backfield some though with 2 and a half tackles for loss.
Advantage: Utah

Defensive Tackle
Star Lotulei and James Aiono/Dave Kruger vs Romney Fuga
Lotulelei has been all that we thought he would be and the best player on the Utah defense to this point as he clogs up the middle. The BYU running game has been poor to this point and his play will go a long ways towards keeping it that way. Kruger and Aiono stuggled at times against USC and with the big boys inside for BYU, they're going to have their hands full. In their 3-4 defense, Fuga is asked to load up the middle at nose tackle, and he's really quite the load at 62, and 321 pounds. He won't fill up the stat sheet, but he's a force in the middle coming off of an injury in 2010.
Advantage: Utah

Brian Blechen, Matt Martinez, and Chaz Walker vs Kyle Van Noy, Jordan Pendleton, Uona Kavienga, Brandon Ogletree
These are two very workmanline groups. Blechen leads the team in interceptions with 2 while Walker leads in tackles with 21. Martinez has 15 tackles with one of those for a loss. In the first two games, the linebackers have been fairly solid against the run giving up only 113.5 yards per game on the ground. Their biggest concern should be containing the big play ability of DiLuigi. Not a single BYU linebacker is in the top 3 in tackles for their team, but they've been stout against the run holding their first two opponents to 115 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. Kyle Van Noy saved the day in the opener with a late game sack, forced fumble, and recovery for a touchdown giving the Cougars the win over Mississippi. He's all over the field and as athletic as any player on the roster. Kavienga is a transfer from USC who thrust his way into the starting spot and now has 8 tackles. Ogletree and Pendleton are the upperclassmen leaders with 6 and 9 tackles respectively. While both linebacking corps are good, the Utes' group is more consistent and brings more to the table with the big play ability of Blechen.
Advantage: Utah

Ryan Lacy and Conroy Black vs Corby Eason and Preston Hadley
Conroy Black and Ryan Lacy have proved their worth to this point in the season playing fairly well, especially Black, who hasn't seen many balls thrown his way. Lacy has been the main target and has been a boom or bust kind of guy with big plays followed by big mistakes. He did get his pick career pick last week on a diving grab. Utah gets the edge for one reason. Their cornerbacks go up against elite receivers in practice every single day. BYU's do not. Eason is an undersized corner who picked up 3.5 sacks with one start in 2010. Hadley is a JC transfer out of Snow who has 4 tackles on the season.
Advantage: Utah

Eric Rowe and Keith McGill vs Daniel Sorensen and Travis Uale
McGill and Rowe took most of the reps against USC and were solid. Not good or great, but solid, which is about as much as can be expected of the guys two games into their FBS careers. McGill still appears to be lost at times with a few instances where he was out of position against USC. Rowe is a true freshman and is making the best of his opportunity, but there have been bumps and bruises along the way. The speed of the game still appears a bit overwhelming. Rowe is tied for second on the team in tackles with 15. BYU doesn't have the receivers or quarterback that USC does so they shouldn't be tested as much this week. Uale started 9 games in 2010 and picked up his first career interception against Texas. Sorensen also had a pick against the Longhorns last week and is in his first year as a starter.
Advantage: Even

Coleman Peterson vs Justin Sorensen
Peterson is 2 for 3 on the season with his one miss being the blocked kick at the end of the USC game. Sorensen is 3 for 4 with a long of 33 yards and has more experience after kicking part time back in 2008.
Advantage: BYU

Nick Marsh vs Riley Stephenson
Marsh took over the punting duties from Sean Sellwood and is averaging 40.9 yards per punt with a high of 44. With the BYU offensive struggles, Stephenson has been active in the early going, but averaging only 37.3 yards per punt with a long of 53.
Advantage: Even

Punt Returner
Griff McNabb vs J.D. Falslev
McNabb has split duties with Charles Henderson early and is a sure hands punt returner who is averaging 4 yards per return. Falslev is an experienced return man after holding down duties last season and is averaging 8 yards per return this season.
Advantage: BYU

Kick Returner
Reggie Dunn and Ryan Lacy vs Jordan Johnson and Mike Hague
Dunn and Lacy have been very good to open the season averaging 26.4 yards per return, but are yet to break one longer than 38 yards. The Cougar duo are just a tab behind at 24.5 yards per return with a long of 28.
Advantage: Utah

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