Position Battles- UCLA at Utah

Who has the edge at each position? Inside The Utes breaks it all down...

Quarterback
Jon Hays vs Kevin Prince
Hays had his best game as a Ute against Arizona, managing the game well, not turning the ball over, and actually making a few plays. Granted, this was against an Arizona defense that is downright awful, but credit is due to Hays for his performances the last two weeks. The game appears to be slowing down for him, which in turn has resulted in back to back weeks of turnover free football out of the JC transfer. His numbers aren't impressive with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on the year, but if the Bruins DBs give their customary 10 year cushions, Hays will dink and dunk his way down the field. Prince is a junior who is in his third year as a starter. When anointed the first stringer before his redshirt freshman year, then UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow said that Prince was good enough to win a Heisman. He hasn't been that good, but Prince has been snakebit by injuires throughout his career that have derailed his development. He's gone from a passing threat as a freshman to a tremendous runner in the pistol offense, putting up over 200 yards on the ground the last two weeks against Cal and ASU, including over 160 yards against the Bears. Prince runs the read-option very well and can often confuse defenders by pulling the ball back in and taking off running. While not much of a passing threat out of the pistol formation, Prince does have the ability to put the ball up top on occasion and make the defenders respect the deep pass. Having split reps with Richard Brehaut, who has been out with a broken ankle, Prince's passing numbers are pedestrian at 4 TDs and 4 INTs (3 of those in the first quarter against Texas) for around 140 yards per game on the season while completing 54% of his passes. In the run game, Prince has run for 296 yards on 56 carries for an average of 5.3 yards per rush. Brehaut may return this week as well, throwing into wrinkle into the Utes preparation, having to prepare for two QBs.
Advantage: UCLA

Running Back
John White vs Jonathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman
John White has to be licking his chops. UCLA can't stop the run, and hasn't done so much at all this season. The Bruins are giving up 186 yards per game on the ground and 5 yards per carry, meaning White should be able to continue his stellar season with another 100 yard day. The JC transfer is averaging 113 yards per contest at 5 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns. He's small, but runs well between the tackles, grinds for yards, and has the speed to break a long one at any moment. The thunder and lightning duo of Franklin and Coleman presents matchup problems for almost everyone the faces them. Franklin is a speedy, shifty back who has game breaking ability and generally is the feature runner, but has had fumbling issues throughout this career that have kept him from putting up better numbers. He's averaging 67.3 yards per game with an average of 5.6 per carry and 4 touchdowns, but is only averaging 32.3 yards per game in his last three contests. Coleman is the big back who has really turned into a weapon the last two seasons. He's a fourth quarter grinder, who wears down defenses, but has also broken a few big runs on the year. The 5-11, 240 pound Coleman is averaging 59 yards a game on the ground at 5.3 yards a pop with 11 touchdowns. He has three 100 yard games on the year. F-back Jordan James will probably get a few touches as well, likely on a fly sweep. He's a speedster that can break a big on as well.
Advantage: Even

Wide Receiver
DeVonte Christopher, Reggie Dunn, and Dres Anderson vs Nelson Rosario, Taylor Embree, Shaq Evans
Christopher had a nice bounceback game last week against Arizona with 3 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown, looking fully healed from the injury that sidelined him recently. He leads the team in catches with 27 at 16 yards per catch and 4 touchdowns. Anderson had no catches last week, but has 21 on the year for 14.7 yards per catch and 3 touchdowns. The son of former UCLA receiver Flipper Anderson, he has plenty of speed. Dunn had his first touchdown catch of the year last week and has 14 grabs on the year. He remains a threat in the run game on the end arounds. Nelson Rosario epitomizes UCLA football. Big, talented, and inconsistent. He's 6-5 and has made some of the best highlight catches you'll ever see during his career. But he'll follow those up with back to back drops or won't fight for a jump ball. Despite all of that, he's still the Bruins' best receiver and a matchup nightmare for opposing DBs. Rosario is definitely Prince's favorite target with 40 catches for 19.1 yards per catch and 1 touchdown on the season. Taylor Embree is a possession receiver who has decent size and catches most things throw his way, but struggles to get open at times and doesn't have a lot of speed. He has 12 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. Evans is a playmaker who is in his first year with UCLA after transferring from Notre Dame and has hauled in 12 balls for 178 yards and a touchdown.
Advantage: Even

Tight End
Jake Murphy and Kendrick Moeia vs Joseph Fauria and Cory Harkey
Murphy has 5 catches on the year for 64 yards a touchdown while Moeia has reeled in 8 balls fof 37 yards. Fauria is a giant. He's 6-8 and a matchup nightmare. The undersized Utah linebackers will have issues with him often. Fauria has 18 catches on the year for 13.5 yards per catch and 4 touchdowns. Harkey is used mostly as a blocking tight end. He has 1 catch for 10 yards on the year.
Advantage: UCLA

Left Tackle
John Cullen vs Jeff Baca
Cullen has been vastly improved the past couple of weeks, avoiding missed assignments and penalties that plagued the senior earlier in the year. Baca is arguably the Bruins' top offensive linemen, who returned this year after being academically ineligible last season. Baca has played all over the line in his career at UCLA with 27 starts.
Advantage: UCLA

Left Guard
Miles Mason vs Greg Capella
Mason had one of his better performances last week against Arizona, but will be tested by a UCLA line that is better than what the Wildcats threw at him. Capella is a sophomore who is in his first year as a starter, having done so at both guard and center this season. He's the lightest of the starting linemen for UCLA at only 292 pounds.
Advantage: Even

Center
Tevita Stevens vs Kai Maiava
Stevens has been greatly improved during the two game winning streak and helped solidify the line while gaining a level of comfort with QB Jon Hays that seems to have helped Hays' confidence. Maiava is one of the top centers in the Pac 12. He's a transfer from Colorado who started in 2009, sat out 2010 with an injury, but is now back to lead the line for his senior year.
Advantage: Even

Right Guard
Sam Brenner vs Wade Yandall
Brenner has been solid all season long in his first year as a starter. Yandall is a freshman that has started the last two games and been impressive both times out. Advantage: Utah

Right Tackle
Tony Bergstrom vs Mike Harris
Bergstrom is the Ute senior and leader of the offensive line. Like the rest of the line, the three year starter has been much better the last two weeks and is starting to live up to the preseason expectations heaped upon him. Harris is a big boy at 6-5, 326 pounds and a four year starter. He has 37 starts under his belt.
Advantage: UCLA

Defensive End
Derrick Shelby and Joe Kruger vs Damian Holmes and Datone Jones
Shelby is a senior and one of the vocal leaders of the defense. He started slowly, but his performance has improved as the season has gone on, getting QB pressure with more consistency the past few weeks. He has 4 sacks and 7 tackles for loss on the year. Kruger has also improved significantly the past few weeks showing the promise that he displayed in spring and fall camp. The sophomore has 2 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in 2011. Holmes has had an up and down career at UCLA after coming in with a lot of hype. He's not very quick for a defensive end, but is coming off of one of his best games as a Bruin against Arizona State. He has 1 sack and 2.5 tackles for loss on the season. Jones has been lining up inside at the DT spot often the last two games and will probably slide down there at some point this week as well. He's been much more effective inside than outside, and able to use his quickness against some of the interior lineman. His season has been a disappointment so far as most expected him to be a dominant defensive end, but he's had trouble getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Jones has 3 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss on the year. The Bruins will use a multitude of players at the end spots to compliment Holmes and Jones including Iuta Tepa, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and pass rushing specialists Keenan Graham and Aramide Olaniyan.
Advantage: Even

Defensive Tackle
Star Lotulei and Tevita Finau/Dave Kruger vs Cassius Marsh/Nate Chandler and Justin Edison/Donovan Carter
Here's where Utah has its biggest advantage. Star Lotulelei is the best player on either team, on either side of the ball. The defensive tackle has been clogging up running lanes and getting pressure on QBs all season long. His number don't reflect it because he's been facing double teams all season, but he's arguably the top DT in the conference. Next to him is the combination of Finau and Kruger, who don't have tremendous numbers, but have done a great job of plugging gaps and putting the linebackers in position to make tackles. Finau even has 3 sacks on the year. The UCLA defensive tackles are confusing to watch. Neither Chandler nor Edison has proven capable of being a Pac 12 starter, yet continue to get more reps over players that appear more talented. They are consistently blown off the ball by blockers and rarely hold their ground. Marsh is quick for a tackle and does a fairly good job of getting into the backfield with 2 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss, but struggles at time in run support. Carter has arguably been UCLA's best tackle this year, doing a solid job of staying in his lanes and trying to clog up the middle. Like we said earlier, you'll probably see Datone Jones line up inside as well.
Advantage: Utah

Linebacker
Trevor Reilly, Matt Martinez, and Chaz Walker vs Patrick Larimore, Sean Westgate, and Jordan Zumwalt/Glenn Love
Reilly has been Utah's big play guy on defense with 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, both team highs, but he's been somewhat absent in the past few weeks since taking over the starting role. He's still a pass rushing threat who has forced four fumbles and recovered two of them. Walker is the Utes' leading tackler with 76 on the year. His play, and ability to anticipate and read the UCLA running game will go a long ways towards determining whether or not the Bruins will be able to run. Martinez is third on the team in tackles with 53 to go along with 2 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions. All of the Utah linebackers are somewhat undersized, particularly, Walker and Martinez. How well they shed blocks from UCLA's big tight ends and offensive linemen is going to be key to their success. The UCLA linebackers have been a disappointing group this season. Westgate is an undersized senior who often gets pushed out of the play down the field, but does have 2 interceptions on the season. He'll be spelled by a more skilled Eric Kendricks often who is third on the team with 46 tackles. Larimore leads the team in tackles with 57, but hasn't displayed the hard hitting mentality that he showed last season before suffering an injury. He's a big kid though at 6-3, 250 pounds. Sophomore Jordan Zumwalt and Glenn Love will split time at the strongside linebacker spot. Glove is a senior and converted safety who is a bit undersized at only 6-4, 213 pounds, while Zumwalt is the highly thought of youngster who's still coming into his own. Zumwalt has 35 tackles on the year and is second on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss. Opponents are rushing for over 186 yards per game against the Bruins at 5 yards per carry, much of that due to the overall ineffectiveness of this group.
Advantage: Utah

Cornerback
Ryan Lacy/Mo Lee and Conroy Black vs Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester
Conroy Black is the best corner on either team. He's been a lockdown guy all year that opposing teams have stayed away from consistently. His interception in the end zone last week sealed the win against Arizona. Lee and Lacy were both solid last week against Foles as was nickel back Reggie Topps. They threw a ton of different looks at Arizona, but won't have to this week as UCLA is going to run the same thing over and over again. Their tackling prowess will be tested Saturday. Lacy is a bit undersized and has had his fair share of mistakes, but often balances those out with tremendous plays. Very up and down player. Lee is the former receiver who is in his first year at the position and a bigger body to match up with UCLA's big receivers. Price is the Bruins' best cover corner. He's got very good height and ball awareness, but has a rather slight build. A starter since his freshman year, the junior has 1 career interception. Hester is a veteran with 21 career starts under his belt and is second on the team in tackles. He has tremendous size for a corner, but isn't always consistent. He has 4 career interceptions.
Advantage: Even

Safety
Eric Rowe and Brian Blechen vs Tevin McDonald and Stan McKay/Dalton Hilliard
Blechen continues to settle back in nicely to the spot he occupied last season after opening the year at linebacker. He'll be pinching towards the line of scrimmage often to help in run support against UCLA's pistol formation. The big hitter is second on the team in tackles, has 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions. Rowe wasn't at his best against Foles last week, something you might expect for a true freshman when going against a quarterback of that caliber. Prince is not going to be the passing threat that Foles was, but will take a few shots downfield. It will be on Rowe to provide support and be able to run with some of the UCLA speedsters. The slight youngster is second on the team with 6 pass breakups. The UCLA secondary has taken a big hit from injuries this season. Arguably their two best safeities in Tony Dye and Deitrich Reilly are likely out this weekend. Insert Tevin McDonald and the combination of Stan McKay and Dalton Hilliard. McDonald is a redshirt freshman, and the son of former NFLer, Tim McDonald. He's been impressive in his short time on the field, including a three pick day against Cal. Hilliard has three starts on the year and is a big hitter, but has had multiple assignments gaffes where he's looked completely lost at times. McKay is a high energy guy who's been buried on the depth chart despite loads of ability, and is finally getting a chance to play with all of the injuries.
Advantage: Utah

Placekicker
Coleman Peterson vs Tyler Gonzalez
Peterson is 13 of 17 on the season this year with a long of 48. Gonzalez started the year as the manager for the soccer team. Now he's the starting kicker after injuries and ineffectiveness brought him aboard the team. The new kicker is 3 of 4 on the year with a long of 43.
Advantage: Utah

Punter
Sean Sellwood vs Jeff Locke
Sellwood is coming off of a Pac 12 special teams player of the week performance and is averaging 43.9 yards per punt with a long of 67. Locke is one of the best punters in the country. He led the Pac 12 in punting in 2010 and is near the top in 2011 with an average of 44.3 yards per punt, and a long of 70.
Advantage: UCLA

Punt Returns
Griff McNabb vs Taylor Embree
The battle of sure-handed, no return guys ensues Saturday. McNabb is averaging 5.4 yards per return with a long of 19 while Embree is at 3.3 pre return with a long of 17.
Advantage: Even

Kick Returns
Reggie Dunn vs Josh Smith
Dunn has speed to burn, but is yet to break one on the year with an average of 25.3 and a long of 45. Smith is averaging 24.7 yards per return with a long of 78.
Advantage: Even


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