Position Battles- Utah vs Georgia Tech

The option attack of Tech takes on the run stopping force that is Utah...

Quarterback
Jon Hays vs Tevin Washington
It's possibly the final game of the Jon Hays tenure as Jordan Wynn is expected back next year. With a few high profile recruits coming in as well, Hays will be hard pressed to keep the starting spot. That said, the JC signal caller did lead the Utes to the brink of a spot in the Pac 12 Championship Game. He's not highly skilled, but Hays is a gamer, who's tough as nails and progressed as the season went on. Hays finished the regular season with 5 wins in 8 starts while completing 9 touchdown passes to 7 interceptions. Washington is going to run, run, and run some more. He averaged only 11 pass attempts per game, with decent success at over 1,500 yards for 10 touchdowns and 8 touchdowns, but his ability to run the option is his bread and butter. The quarterback ran for 890 yards and 4 touchdowns. If he's able to put up numbers on Utah and move the ball consistently, the Yellow Jackets will be in a great position to win this game.
Advantage: Georgia Tech

Running Back
John White vs David Sims, Orwin Smith, and Roddy Jones
Which John White are we going to see? The John White that went for over 100 yards in every single win this year? Or the John White that averaged only 48.6 yards in the 5 losses? When White runs the ball well, and a lot of that comes from getting decent blocking, the Utes win. If he's recovered from the injury that knocked him out of the finale against Colorado, the junior back that eclipsed 1,400 yards on the season should be able to put up decent number against a Georgia Tech defense that gives up 163 yards per game on the ground. The Rambling Wreck are going to throw three different backs at Utah in Sims, Smith, and Jones, all well built backs at over 200 pounds in their option attack. Sims led the trio with 698 yards and 7 touchdowns, averaging over 10 carries per game. Smith was the big play guy with 616 yards at an astounding 10.3 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns, while Jones went over 400 yards on the year with an average of 8+ yards per carry. There's no one dominant back, but there are plenty of options and plenty of talent.
Advantage: Even

Wide Receiver
DeVonte Christopher, Reggie Dunn, and Dres Anderson vs Tyler Melton and Stephen Hill
The Utah wide receivers had somewhat of a disappointing season, but much of that was due to the ineffectiveness out of the quarterback spot and limited opportunities to catch the ball. Christopher had 38 catches for 589 yards and 4 touchdowns receiving, all team highs, despite missing time due to injury. Anderson hauled in 23 catches for 355 yads and 3 touchdowns, while Dunn had 15 catches for 241 yards and 1 touchdown. He was second on the team in rushing with 144 yards on 13 carries. Georgia Tech doesn't throw the ball much, but when they do, they can put up big plays. Hill had only 26 catches, but for a ridiculous average of 30.2 yards per catch and 4 touchdowns. Melton had 20 catches for an average of over 20 yards per catch.
Advantage: Even

Tight End
Jake Murphy and Kendrick Moeia vs none
The Utes didn't use the tight end much after Dallin Rogers went down with a season ending knee injury. Murphy had 5 catches, one of wich was for a touchdown, while Moeai brought in 13 balls. Georgia Tech does not employ a tight end.
Advantage: Utah

Left Tackle
John Cullen vs Ray Beno
Cullen turned around his season after a rough start, finishing as a second team all conference selection. While it wasn't the complete season he wanted, the senior was a force in the second half of the season. Beno is a sophomore who is in his first year as a starter. He's built more like a guard, but his size and ability fit the offense well.
Advantage: Utah

Left Guard
Miles Mason vs Will Jackson
Mason arrived midway through fall camp and still managed to grab a starting spot that he held down throughout the season. He held his own, and with another year under his belt in the program, should be a solid starter next year. Jackson was a first team freshman All American in 2010 and had another solid season in 2011. He's not the biggest kid, but gets downfield well.
Advantage: Georgia Tech

Center
Tevita Stevens vs Jay Finch
How is Tevita Stevens only a junior? It seems like he's been here forever. He struggled a bit at times after making the move over from guard, where he started in 2010, but was much more comfortable with Jon Hays as the season wore on. Another offseason at this spot and he should be one of the top centers in the conference in 2012. Finch is a sophomore in his second year as a starter, and like Stevens, made the move from guard to center in the off season.
Advantage: Utah

Right Guard
Sam Brenner vs Omoregie Uzzi
Brenner returns from a frightening injury that he suffered in the regular season finale against Colorado. He's been a huge surprise on the line this year and hasn't received the due he's deserved despite arguably being the Utes' most consistent lineman. Uzzi was Tech's best offensive lineman, earning first team all ACC honors. He's a junior.
Advantage: Georgia Tech

Right Tackle
Tony Bergstrom vs Phil Smith
Bergstrom was a first team all conference offensive lineman selection and showed tremendous leadership for this team, helping turn around a season that was in the dumps and getting consistent play from the line over the second half of the season. Smith is a junior who is in his second year as a starter. He was suspended 2 games earlier in the year for a violation of team rules.
Advantage: Utah

Defensive End
Derrick Shelby and Joe Kruger vs Izaan Cross and Jason Peters
Shelby was a force in his senior year, earning All Pac 12 first team honors after registering 9 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 7 passses knocked down, and an interception. Kruger had 3 sacks and tackles for loss this year despite high expectations. He was better over the second half of the season, but didn't perform up to the standards people had for him going into the year. Peters registered 2.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks in 2011 with Cross pitching in 30 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Their job is to eat up blockers and let the linebackers make plays.
Advantage: Utah

Defensive Tackle
Star Lotulei and Tevita Finau vs Logan Walls
Lotulelei was voted the top defensive lineman in the Pac 12 by his peers, a noteworthy award as those are the people that actually go helmet to helmet with the big man. While his stats weren't noteworthy, with only 1.5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, he took on multiple blockers on every play, making it easier for Utah's linebackers to pad their tackling numbers. The first team All Pac 12 performer will be coming back in 2012 and will be receiving preseason All American honors. With Dave Kruger out with an infection, Finau will likely slide into his spot and get the start. The senior had 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss on the season. Walls didn't do a ton this year, registering 37 tackles and only 2 tackles for loss. As the man in the middle of a 3-4, low stat numbers have to be expected, but Walls is a bit undersized for a tackle in a 3-4 at only 6-2, 299 pounds.
Advantage: Utah

Linebacker
Trevor Reilly, Matt Martinez, and Chaz Walker vs Jeremiah Attaochu, Julian Burnett, Steven Sylvester, and Quayshawn Nealy
This is a perfect matchup for the Utah linebackers. Georgia Tech isn't going to throw, and won't be able to exploit the pass coverage deficiencies of this group. Walker was an All Pac 12 honorable mention selection after leading the team in tackles with 103. Martinez was second on the team in tackles with 76, including 8 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions. Reilly was the early season big play guy, but tailed off as the season wore on, finishing with 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. How this group defends the option will go a long ways towards to determining whether or not Utah can win this game. They're a disciplined group that stays in their lanes, something that is needed to stop what Georgia Tech is going to do. The linebackers are the strength of the Yellow Jacket defense. Burnett led the team in tackles with 113 and was a first team all conference selection. Attaochu was an honorable mention all conference selection with 6.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss despite missing two games. Sylvester had only 38 tackles with 4 tackles for loss while Nealy had 47 tackles and 3 tackles for loss.
Advantage: Even

Cornerback
Ryan Lacy/Mo Lee and Conroy Black vs Rod Sweeting and Michael Peterson
Black got the shaft when he wasn't selected as a Pac 12 All Conference first or second teamer, instead settling for an honorable mention. He was a lockdown corner throughout the season, often taking away half the field from opposing teams. Black picked off four passes on the year, taking one back for a touchdown against UCLA. Lee and Lacy teamed up to take away the other side of the field, with mixed results. Lacy was up and down throughout with tremendous plays followed by mental gaffes and missed assignments. He intercepted 2 passes, but led the team with 10 pass breakups. Lee was the more physical corner, who finished the season with 3 interceptions and should move into a full time starting role in 2012. Louis Young has been suspended for the game, so Peterson takes his place. The sophomore saw limited action in 11 games, making only 8 tackles. Utah may try picking on him early. Sweeting is a junior who was third on the team in tackles. He picked off three passes and broke up nine passés in earning All ACC honorable mention honors. Expect Sweeting to line up on DeVonte Christopher.
Advantage: Utah

Safety
Eric Rowe and Brian Blechen vs Rashaad Reid and Isaiah Johnson
Rowe was one of the top freshman safeties in the country, earning first and second team freshman All American nods from multiple publications. He really thrived down the stretch as he the youngster from Texas became more comfortable in the Utah defense. Rowe finished fourth on the team with 66 tackles while picking off 1 pass and breaking an unbelievable 9 balls. Blechen started out the year at linebacker, but moved back to safety where he started in 2010. Once he did, Utah really got going and things were definitely solidified in the secondary. He's not the fastest safety out there, but his instincts and experienced helped Rowe grow. Blechen finished with 72 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles. Reid is a senior who had 50 tackles while Johnson is sophomore with great size and is a rising star. He was second on the team with 69 tackles and 3 interceptions.
Advantage: Even

Placekicker
Coleman Peterson vs Justin Moore
Peterson is 17 of 24 on the season with a long of 48. Moore is 9 of 13 with a long of 41.
Advantage: Utah

Punter
Sean Sellwood vs Sean Poole
Sellwood is averaging 44.2 yards per punt with a long of 67 and was better as the season progressed. Poole is averaging 38.7 yards per punt with a long of 55.
Advantage: Utah

Punt Returns
Griff McNabb vs Jemea Thomas
McNabb is averaging 6.2 yards per return with a long of 29. Thomas is averaging 10.5 with a long of 14 on only 2 returns.
Advantage: Even

Kick Returns
Reggie Dunn vs Orwin Smith and Tony Zenon
Dunn is averaging 23.8 yards per return with a long of 45. Smith is averaging 19.6 with a long of 29 while Zenon is at 22.4 with a long of 79.
Advantage: Even


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