Utah vs. Arizona State - Position Grades

Grading out each position after Utah's took on division rival Arizona State…

Jon Hays = D+
Jon Hays took the field on Saturday as Utah's starting quarterback…a post he will maintain for the remainder of the season. Hays looked sharp on his first drive, moving the Utes down the field for a touchdown, using just 5 plays to gain 46 yards. Hays finished the game 18/30 (60%) for 199 yards with 1 TD and 3 INT. Hays also showed mobility with 8 rushes on the night, with a long of 12 yards. Hays also looked good during the first drive of the second half, in which Hays led the Utes ona 9 play, 79 yard touchdown drive.

On the flip side, Hays looked lost and confused for most of the night…forcing throws, and showing moments of horrible inaccuracy. Hays turned the ball over 3 times on the night, which is a scenario the Utes must avoid if they hope to win games with their new signal caller. Most concerning about Hays is Utah's inability to adjust within each half.

Inexperienced QBs are far more likely to have success moving the ball early in each half while the plays are still scripted. Once the script runs out, and the defense starts adjusting, the experience of a QB starts to show through. Hays was awful outside of opening drives.

Running Back: B
There's no understating John White's role in Utah's offense. He is a critical piece of an a sputtering offense. Despite excellent stats on the season, White has not been effective inside of conference play, partially due to Utah's ineffectiveness on the offensive line in the trenches. Against Arizona State, White ran the ball very well. White finished with 17 carries for 85 yards (5 per) and a TD. White would grade out better were it not for a costly fumble at a critical point in the game.

Wide Receiver: B-
Utah's wide receivers had a rough night vs. Arizona State. The group did little to help their young QB, dropping a TON of passes. The group took a hit when Devonte Christopher and Charles Henderson both went down with injuries. Reggie Dunn showed up for the first time this season with a strong receiving game. Dunn led the Utes with 4 catches for 55 yards. Freshman Kenneth Scott returned to action after missing some time with an injury to make a big play in the second half. Luke Matthews also had a decent evening, catching a couple of passes down the field. Freshman standout Dres Anderson had a poor outing, and struggled to get himself into the game.

Tight End: B
Dallin Rogers is quickly becoming an extremely solid receiving option for the Utes at Tight End. Rogers led the team with 5 receptions on Saturday, with 1 TD. Other than Rogers, no other Ute Tight Ends had a reception.

Offensive Line: D
Awful. There is no other word to describe Utah's OLine performance against Arizona State. Utah's highest offensive line grade for the week belonged to Center Tevita Stevens who won 76% of plays. The usually steady Sam Brenner had a poor night, as did Miles Mason. The return of Tony Bergstrom lacked fireworks, as the Senior tackle only won 74% of plays. John Cullen had another very bad game, winning just 73% of his plays, but also committing numerous penalties that killed drives and negated big plays. DeVonte Christopher's long reception to start the second half was brought back by a holding penalty on the badly beaten Offensive Tackle. If this group doesn't get better, Jon Hays will not last through to the end of the season as Utah's starting QB.

Defensive Line: B
The tale of two halves once again for the Ute defense. For the second straight week, the Utes were extremely stout in the first half, shutting down an explosive Arizona State offense. ASU finished with 74 total rushing yards on the day, which shows terrific defensive production from the defensive line. Against the pass, Utah's DLine once again struggled to put pressure on the opponents QB. With the lack of production, Utah Defensive Coordinator Kalani Sitake was forced to blitz his linebackers, leaving his defense exposed to a high level QB. Sophomore pass rush specialist Joe Kruger had another very poor da, and it's now perfectly safe to say that he has not lived up to expectations thus far in his career. Kruger has zero sacks on the season, and perhaps more atrocious, zero batted balls. All Defensive Ends share a certain amount of responsibility for disrupting short pass plays, specifically the slant. At 6'7, Kruger needs to get his hands up and be more active in the air since he clearly is not able to get to the QB at this point.

Linebackers: B
Same story for Utah's linebackers, different opponent. In the first half, Utah got the job done. In the second half, Utah's linebackers offered little support to the defense. Failing to provide pass coverage support, or pass rush support, Utah needs to decide who their best linebackers are, and get them on the field. Clearly, Trevor Reilly is productive, and needs to get more snaps. Reilly finished with 5 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. Chaz Walker had a solid game with 9 tackles and 1 TFL. Matt Martinez finished with 6 tackles and 1 TFL.

Cornerbacks: C
Utah was very concerned about the matchups their CBs faced. On the flip side, Arizona State saw an opportunity, and attacked Utah's defense…particularly picking on 5'9 CB Ryan Lacy. Arizona State's Brock Osweiler threw for 325 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INT. Utah rotated a lot of men through on the outside, including Mo Lee, Keith McGill, and others. Ultimately, the task proved too much for the young Utah secondary. In fairness to the CBs however, man-to-man press coverage is a nearly impossible task without linebacker support over the middle. Utah was forced to blitz LBs early and often, leaving the Ute secondary in a tough situation when their front 7 was unable to get to Osweiller.

Safeties: B
Eric Rowe had a nice game for the Utes, and fans should feel good about his continuing progress. Rowe led the Utes on Saturday with 10 tackles, 1 of which was a TFL. Rowe also had a pass break-up after getting beat early, but showing nice recovery speed. Utah moved Brian Blechen back to Strong Safety, and it appears he may finish the season back there for the Utes. While Blechen's added weight helped him at LB, it impacted his mobility at SS, causing him to get beat at times. Nevertheless, Utah seems to have found their answer at SS after trying virtually every safety available thus far in the season.

Special Teams: B-
On Special Teams, Utah had mixed results on Saturday. Kicker Coleman Peterson converted both of his extra point attempts, but failed to attempt a field goal once again. Punting for the Utes, Nick Marsh had 3 poor kicks, averaging 32 yards per kick. Sean Sellwood punted twice for an average of 45 yards. Coverage on kick teams was very good however. In the return game, the Utes had a good night. Freshman Charles Henderson was explosive on punt returns, returning 2 punts for 34 yards, including a 30 yard return that led to Utah's first score of the game. Henderson was unfortunately injured on his second return and will miss the remainder of the season. Griff McNabb replaced Henderson on kick returns and failed to impress. On kick returns, Reggie Dunn had 4 returns for 93 yards (23.3 average) and a long of 35 yards. ASU stopped kicking the ball deep to Dunn in the second half, instead opting to give away decent field position while preventing any big play opportunities.

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