Position Grades: Utah vs Fresno State

High marks after the Utes throttle the Bulldogs at Rice-Eccles

A: Played well above expectations
B: Played above expectations
C: Played to expectations
D: Played below expectations
F: Played well below expectations

Quarterbacks: B+
11 for 20 for 181 yards and 5 touchdowns. Just another day at the office? Wilson was a bit errant on a few balls, but his completion percentage was hurt by a receiver running a bad route and a couple of throwaways, which would have been sacks or picks last season. That's progression. When he was given ample time, Wilson picked apart the Fresno State D with ease. The pump-fake on the early deep ball to Dres Anderson got the DB to bite and resulted in a 40 yard gain. Beautiful. The sophomore threw probably the best ball of his career on the early touchdown to Anderson and ran it very efficiently. You can see the progress he's made in the read option, making the correct decision on the majority of the times it was called. Opposing defenses are continually going to be kept off-guard by the that. Kendal Thompson looked great as well, completing 4 passes on 7 attempts and making the Fresno State defense look silly with his legs picking up 71 yards on 9 carries with a touchdown.

Running Backs: C+
30 carries for 143 yards comes out to 4.76 yards per rush. Nothing to sneeze at, but probably not to the level they wanted considering how well everything else was working. Booker had a good day with 10 carries for 67 yards, including a couple of exciting runs on his first series. Poole was steady with 13 carries for 54 yards while McCormick picked up his 22 yards on 9 carries after the outcome had already been decided. Poole did run a bit tentatively at times and missed a few open holes created by the line. Remember all those passes to the running backs we were talking about? Only 1 catch, by Poole, for minus 4 yards. Something to keep and eye on and will be needed more as we get into Pac 12 play. It does tell me that the QBs aren't having to dump it off to the backs after a play breaks down. Everything seems to be working in the passing game, so it wasn't needed against Fresno State.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B
There aren't enough defensive backs on the field to slow down Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott as the pair continually lit up the Fresno State secondary. 9 balls for 161 yards and 4 touchdowns. Both made the Fresno State secondary look silly at times and gave Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson wide open receivers to hit. Westlee Tonga had one of the plays of the day with a catch and run where he dragged a few defenders into the end zone from about 10 yards out. Good to see some of the backups like Andre Lewis get into the action with a touchdown. I think it's safe to say at this point that Utah has weapons.

Offensive Line: B
More consistency out of the line as they kept the quarterbacks mostly clean. There were a few issues on the right side still in pass protection, but it was definitely an improvement over the previous week. The real impressive part? Run blocking, as the Utah line made it look easy, constantly over-powing Fresno State and opening up good sized holes. Nick Nowakoskwi filled in admirably when Junior Salt went down and we even saw JJ Dielman playing some left tackle. Still not where they want to be, but getting closer.

Defensive Line: A-
Utah was in the backfield all day against Fresno State, stopping the run as well as pressuring the quarterback. The play calling of Fresno State played right into the Utes' strength and away from the weakness as the continually tried to run outside and the Ute line was able to string them out into the arms of corners, safeties, and linebackers. Hunter Dimick was a man again, consistently getting into the backfield while Clint Shepard and Filipo Mokofisi had stellar days. Jason Fanaika rebounded from a poor Idaho State performance and was also a factor. Good performance all around.

Linebackers: B
A solid performance by the linebackers, with Nate Orchard spending much of his day standing up and playing a new role. While Nate didn't have huge numbers with six tackles and a fumble recover, his presence opened things up for others and they responded. Pita Taumoepenu lined up mostly at linebacker and picked up two sacks while Jared Norris was consistently around the ball and making plays. Fresno State couldn't run the ball, especially with their running backs, and a lot of that is because of how assignment sound Utah's linebackers played.

Cornerbacks: B+
It was a definite improvement over week 1 now that Hatfield is playing corner full-time and Thomas is back. They were a lot more physical (especially Thomas) and although it seemed like Fresno was picking on Rowe, on second viewing he really held his own against a high-level receiver. Fresno's quarterbacks had no chance against Utah's top line and hopefully that continues as we head towards teams that can actually throw it.

Safeties: C-
Tevin Carter can play the run. That's clear as the Utes used him in sort of a min-backer role near the line of scrimmage a ton throughout the contest. He was very good. Pass coverage? Not so much as he was out of position too often. Brian Blechen also excelled in the run game (outside of a whiff on the quarterback where he just tried to knock him down instead of tackling him. Overall, the starting safeties weren't tested a ton as Fresno State rarely threw the ball over the middle. Not a ton of help outside, but it wasn't needed due to the strong play by the corners and inaccurate Bulldog quarterbacks. Freshman Marcus Williams? Tough day as he was responsible for two Fresno State touchdown passes. Good for him to get reps, but the Utes will be in trouble if he's pressed into action the rest of the way.

Special Teams: B+
Is Tom Hackett the best punter in the country? Is Andy Phillips the best kicker? Kaelin Clay didn't get a chance to do much when the Bulldogs weren't hitting him with cheap-shots, but is he the best return man in the country? Unbelievable unit right now.

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