Utah vs Michigan: Position Grades

Grading out the position groups from Utah's win over Michigan

Quarterback: A-

Travis Wilson took every snap for the Utes and put up one of his best performances as a Ute in going 24 of 33 for 208 yards. The one interception was a fluke as the ball was tipped on a hail mary at the end of the half, and a would-be touchdown pass to Britain Covey came up abaout an inch short so the overall numbers are a bit misleading and don't tell the story of how well the senior carried himself throughou the game. His pocket presense, awareness, and overall command were top-notch and at a level we've never seen out of Wilson. He made the right reads and right throws time and time again, while running the read option close to perfection. 53 yards on the ground and a touchdown run was the icing on the cake.

Running Backs: B-

Devontae Booker wasn't great running the ball with only 69 yards on 22 carries, but he didn't get much help from his line. Was more than exceptional catching the ball out of the backfield with 7 catches, but the most impressive part may have been his blocking and the improvements the senior has made from last season. A better performance than the numbers would tell you. Joe Williams had a nice 7 yard run on his only touch, but will need the ball more to take some of the load off of Booker at some point.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C+

Hello Britain Covey. The true freshman carried over his tremendous fall camp into the regular season opener with a team high 58 yards on 5 catches including one where he put a nice move on all american safety candidate Jabril Peppers and another grab over the middle that was behind him and low. The kid catches everything and could be Utah's most dynamic playmaker outside of Booker. Maybe the most important receiver in the game was Bubba Poole though as his early grabs helped get Wilson into a groove and gave him a lot of confidence. Utah used Poole perfectly and played to his strength with quick swing passes. Kenneth Scott struggled with only two grabs and had two drops as well. Also missed a few blocks. Despite not seeing them much  in camp, Wilson used his tight ends quite a bit with Moeia, Handley, and Fakailoatonga combining for 5 catches.

Offensive Line: D+

Outside of Sam Tevi's tough first start, the pass protection was pretty solid as Wilson was only sacked once and generally had time to throw. Utah is supposed to be a team that gets a strong push in the run game, and they were generally dominated by Michigan. Isaac Asiata was getting tossed around and Salesi Uhatafe wasn't at his best. Utah has started slow with their offensive line play in years' past, so expect improvement in the coming weeks.

Defensive Line: B-

Sack Lake City was non-existant on Thursday as the Utes struggled to generate much of a pass rush on Michigan QB Jake Rudock and the max protection the Wolverines used throughout the game and Rudock showed a good pocket presense in getting the ball out before the Utes could hit him. The line did their job and then some in stopping the run game though. Lowell Lotulelei ate up the middle of the field, picking up 3 tackles, while Jason Fanaika caused a lot of havoc in notching 4 tackles. Lots of gang-tackling up front by the Utes with plenty of initial hits in the backfield. They just need to do a better job of wrapping up initially.

Linebackers: B

Gionni Paul was a monster with 14 tackles to lead the team. He was constantly around the ball and will have a legit shot to lead the conference in tackles if he can stay healthy. Jared Norris had a ho-hum 8 tackles and a tremendous pass breakup on a 3rd down play that he may not have made last season. Jason Whittingham struggled on the day with multiple missed tackles and only totalling two on the day.

Cornerbacks: B

Picks out of Butler-Bird and the big pick 6 by Justin Thomas help boost the rating, especially the one by Thomas where he made a great read on the throw and jumped the route. Thomas very good throughout the day. Butler-Bird's big mistake early gave Michigan a wide open deep ball that they couldn't convert on. Reggie Porter was solid, but not spectacular. The corners struggled later in the game when Michigan started throwing more 10-15 yard routes, which is something future opponents will look to exploit.

Safeties: C-

Tevin Carter played up in the box a lot and had 9 tackles with 1.5 for loss, but also looked a bit hobbled at times and not running at full speed. Marcus Williams was solid and picked off a pass. Biggest gripe with the safeties with the safeties came in the coverage of tight end Jake Butt, as they often drew the assignment and Butt ate them alive. A few too many deep balls by Michigan that they were unable to convert could have changed the game, although not all of that was on the safeties.

Special Teams: D

Andy Phillips missed two field goal attempts badly and Tom Hackett wasn't able to pin Michigan with his punting, but did drill a 74 yarder that went for a touchback. Utah didn't get much in the return game and gave up a 36 yard kick return to Jabril Peppers that he was pretty close to taking to the house.

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