Position Battles- Arizona State at Utah

Who has the edge at each position when the Sun Devils come to town?

Quarterback
Jon Hays vs Brock Osweiler
The Jon Hays project is underway now that Jordan Wynn is going to miss time with another injury. Hays was 10 of 16 in relief against Washington with a touchdown and an interception. He's more athletic than Wynn and will make some plays with his feet. The pro-style offense doesn't suit his strengths though, so we'll see how many adjustments in the offense are made this week to create a better set of plays for what Hays excels at. The reality is, we don't know for sure what we're getting out of the JC transfer that is only at Utah because his previous destination, FCS school Nebraska-Omaha, folded their football program. Now he'll be facing a top 25 team in a sold out Rice-Eccles Stadium. Not the most enviable position for a first time starter. Osweiler has been stellar in his first year as a full-time starter throwing for over 270 yards per game and completing 68% of his passes. He's a big kid at 6-8 and 240 pounds with the athleticism to make plays with his feet as well. His 10 to 6 touchdown to interception ratio isn't great, but he had 3 of those picks in the win last week against Oregon State. Utah must get pressure on him with their ends, and get their hands up to bat down a few balls or Osweiler will pick them apart.
Advantage: Arizona State

Running Back
John White vs Cameron Marshall
White has been non-existent against the two Pac 12 foes to date, and other-worldy against the two non-BCS opponents. A step up in competition has really hindered his performance and the Utes have struggled offensively because of it. He's still averaging almost 104 yards per game on the ground at 5.5 yards per pop with 5 touchdowns. White also showed against BYU that he's going to be a big play threat every time he touches the ball. The question is whether he can do it against a quality opponent in the Pac 12. Marshall is averaging almost 75 yards a game at 4.6 yards per carry, but has been rather pedestrian outside of a 141 yard day against USC that is skewed by the 70 yard touchdown run he put on the Trojans. He's a big back at 5-11, 223 pounds, something the Utes have struggled with so far this year as Marc Tyler and Chris Polk have each gone over 100 yards. Marshall has proved to be a threat out of the backfield grabbing 12 balls for an average of 10.2 yards per catch.
Advantage: Even

Wide Receiver
Devonte Christopher, Reggie Dunn, and Dres Anderson vs Aaron Pflugrad, Gerell Robinson, Mike Willie, Jamal Miles
How effective are the Utah receivers going to be with a backup QB? This week of practice is very important for them to find a rhythm and get down their timing or there will be struggles on Saturday. Christopher again continues to prove that he's one of the top receivers in the conference with a team high 21 catches for an average of 15.7 yards and 2 touchdowns. Anderson has been tremendous as well in his freshman year with a wide receiver high average of 17 yards per catch on 12 balls to go along with 2 TDs. Dunn only has 3 grabs on the year, but remains a huge threat in the running game and is actually second on the team in rushing yards with 67 on the year. The Arizona State receiving group has been impressive with three players hauling in 19+ passes to this point, led by speedster Aaron Pflugard who leads all categories with 25 catches for 375 yards and 4 TDs. Miles has proved to be a reliable possession receiver with 24 catches for an average of 7.2 yards a catch and 3 TDs. Robinson is a big play threat with 19 grabs for an average of 15.9 yards and 3 TDs. Willie is a big kid at 6-4, 220 pounds, presenting matchup problems, and has also pitched in 10 catches on the season. Outside of Willie, the group isn't very big, but they can fly.
Advantage: Arizona State

Tight End
Kendrick Moeia and Dallin Rogers and Jake Murphy vs Trevor Kohl
Murphy and Moeia missed last week, but could be back Saturday. If they are, the tight ends become even more dynamic and should be used often by Hays as an outlet. Rogers already had 16 catches on the 16, while Moeia and Murphy have 6 and 3 respectively. Kohl is still looking for his first reception of the season, being used mostly as a blocker.
Advantage: Utah

Left Tackle
John Cullen vs Dan Knapp
Cullen has not looked like the senior leader many were projecting him to be when the season started. He's struggled at times since coming back from an injury to start the year and had poor performances against USC and Washington, including multiple penalties and boneheaded mistakes. Knapp is moving over from right tackle to replace Evan Finkenberg, who will miss the remainder of the season with an injury. Knapp is a senior, converted tight end who has 20 career starts, 11 of those as an offensive lineman. He's not real big at 6-5, 277 pounds, but is an athlete.
Advantage: Even

Left Guard
Miles Mason vs Mike Marcisz
Mason continues to plug along after only being in the program for a month. He wasn't tremendous against Washington, but has the size to keep the ASU linemen at bay. Marcisz is a senior with 16 caareer starts under his belt. He's got good size and was an All Pac 10 academic honorable mention last season.
Advantage: Utah

Center
Tevita Stevens vs Kody Koebensky
Stevens has held his own at the center spot after moving from right guard last season and continues to shine as the Utes' best lineman. Koebensky is stepping in for an injured Garth Gerhart, who is arguably the top center in the conference. He'll need to keep from getting rattled in his first career start.
Advantage: Utah

Right Guard
Sam Brenner/Latu Heimuli vs Andrew Sampson
Brenner is going to get the start somewhere, whether it is at his more natural position of right guard or at right tackle in place of an injured Tony Bergstrom. He's been the biggest surprise on the line so far this year with his stellar play. Heimuli got the start last week and as decent, but is still a work in progress. Sampson is a junior with 14 starts under his belt, and 29 games of service.
Advantage: Arizona State

Right Tackle
Tony Bergstrom/Sam Brenner vs Tyler Sulka
We've addressed Brenner above, but Bergstrom gives the whole line a boost if he can play and allow Brenner to move down to right guard. He's the best lineman Utah has and is the leader on offense, especially with Wynn out. His presence is a must. Sulka is a redshirt freshman who will be making his first career start after injuries forced him into the starting lineup. Like the other tackle, Knapp, he's undersized.
Advantage: Utah

Defensive End
Derrick Shelby and Joe Kruger vs Jamaar Jarrett and Davon Coleman
Shelby and Kruger were touted before the season as a duo that was going to make a lot of noise, especially Kruger. That is yet to happen as only the senior, Shelby has shown signs of life this season. He has 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 pass breakups and a touchdown recovery. Kruger has only 1.5 tackles for loss. The Utes need more out of their sophomore if they're going to have a chance of slowing down Osweiler. Coleman is a bit undersize at end. He comes with 2 starts in place of the injured Junior Onyeali having registered 1.5 tackles for loss and a half a sack. Jarrett is a senior with 11 career starts and was an honorable mention All Pac 10 performer last season. He has 3.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks on the season.
Advantage: Arizona State

Defensive Tackle
Star Lotulei and James Aiono/Dave Kruger vs Will Sutton and Bo Moos/Corey Adams
The defensive tackles for Utah were great against Washington for a half, but ran out of gas in the second and were not able to hold their ground against the Huskie running attack. Star Lotulelei had a breakout game and needs to do that for the rest of the season. He's got 3.5 tackles for loss on the season and 11 tackles total. Dave Kruger and James Aiono have combined for 8 total tackles and a half of a tackle for loss. While they've been pretty good to this point, the tackles haven't been as dominant at times as was anticipated. The sophomore Sutton has 2 tackles for loss on the year and 13 tackles total to go with 1.5 sacks. He's eventually going to be one of the best DTs in the conference, if he's not there already. Moos is a senior with 8 career starts, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack on the year. Adams has 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack.
Advantage: Even

Linebacker
Brian Blechen, Matt Martinez, and Chaz Walker vs Shelly Lyons/Oliver Aaron, Vontaze Burfict, and Colin Parker
In their two matchups with Pac 12 teams, Utah has struggled with big backs and power running games. They'll be up against the same on Saturday in Cameron Marshall. One concern coming into the season about the linebackers was their size, and that has been an issue against Pac 12 opponents as they've had trouble tackling and getting off of their blocks. This is still a playmaking group, but they definitely wore down in the second half against Washington and the physical punishment they are taking may be a factor. The linebackers for ASU are led by the highly feared and often controversial Vontaze Burfict. Burfict has prototypical size, speed, instincts and nasty in him that makes him one of the best in the country. As long as he can avoid his often evident mental breakdowns and overly-aggressive play that has earned him personal fouls and a reputation as a dirty player, he's always going to be a factor. Burfict is a terror behind the line of scrimmage already registering 4 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss, as well as an interception and 3 pass breakups. Aaron is an experienced senior who has 17 tackles on the senior, but is undersize at only 208 pounds. Lyons has better size and has 18 tackles on the year. The senior Parker leads the team in tackles with 33. This group might be the best linebacker group in the conference.
Advantage: Arizona State

Cornerback
Ryan Lacy and Conroy Black vs Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr
Lacy continues to be inconsistent with solid plays followed by head-scratching plays. He's talented, but I'm still waiting for him to improve from game to game. Black has been the rock in the secondary, although he wasn't at his best against Washington. He'll be going up against a lot of speedy receivers on Saturday, which suits him well. Irabor is a sophomore with good size and 12 career starts. He picked off his first pass of the season last week against Oregon State. Carr has very good size and comes in with 13 career starts. The Arizona State DBs have done a good job so far in shutting down some high profile passing attacks, including holding Robert Woods of USC to 8 catches and intercepting Matt Barkley twice.
Advantage: Even

Safety
Eric Rowe/Keith McGill and Quade Chappuis/Michael Walker vs Clint Floyd and Eddie Elder
The Utah safeties are still a huge question showing inconsistency from week to week. They did keep Washington from going deep last week, but their play in run support left a lot to be desired. Rowe is still just a freshman, but looks like he's going to be the best of the bunch. McGill has been a disappointment to this point after coming in with high expectations. Chappuis received his first career start last week, but wasn't impressive and Walker hasn't shown enough in either run or pass support to warrant a full-time gig. Floyd is a very experienced senior with 17 starts and 36 games played. He has decent size and gets around the ball with 3 career picks and 77 career tackles. Elder is another senior with two career interceptions in 13 career starts. He's not very big at only 5-10, 186 pounds, but can be a force in the backfield as evidenced by his 5.5 career tackles for loss.
Advantage:

Placekicker
Coleman Peterson vs Alex Garoutte
Peterson is 4 of 6 on the year with a long of 44. Garoutte has struggled out of the gate hitting only 3 of 6 field goals with a long of 49.
Advantage: Even

Punter
Nick Marsh/Sean Sellwood vs Josh Hubner
Marsh and Sellwood are averaging 42.1 yards per punt between the two of them. Hubner has been mediocre with an average of 40.9 yards per punt
Advantage: Even

Punt Returns
Griff McNabb/Charles Henderson vs Jamal Miles
McNabb is the sure hands guy while Henderson is the exciting youngster. They're averaging 9.2 yards per punt between them with a long of 29. Miles has looked like one of the top return men in the conference with an average of 19.3 yards per punt return, including one returned 78 yards for a touchdown
Advantage: Arizona State

Kick Returns
Reggie Dunn and Ryan Lacy vs Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks/Rashad Ross
The excitement of the kick return is missing this year in Utah. Dunn and Lacy are averaging just over 23 yards per return with a long of 38 between them. To go along with his punt return for a touchdown, Miles also has a kickoff return for ASU that he took back 98 yards for a score. He's averaging 28 yards per return. Ross is averaging 28.6 yards with a long of 37 while Middlebrooks is at 21.4 with a long of 31.
Advantage: Arizona State


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