Utah vs. Pitt Position Breakdowns

Who has the edge at each position? InsideTheUtes.com breaks down the battles...

The matchups:

Quarterbacks
Jordan Wynn vs. Tino Sunseri
Sunseri has only 17 career pass attempts and will be making his first career start Thursday on the road. He's a dual-threat QB who can pull it down and run, which he may have to do a few times with his inexperienced offense line. The coaches would like Sunseri to manage the game, not make mistakes, and hand the ball to Dion Lewis. A lot of hopes are being put on Jordan Wynn after his Poinsettia Bowl MVP performance against Cal where he threw for over 300 yards. While he won't be that good week to week, he is a good quarterback that is still learning,and has 5 starts under his belt. The experience, specifically in big games against TCU, BYU, and Cal give Wynn the edge. Advantage: Utah

Running Back
Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide vs. Dion Lewis and fullback Henry Hynoski
Dion Lewis might be the best back in the country and is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate after rushing for 1,799 yards as a true freshman in 2009. Lewis is a very shifty runner, but can also lower his shoulder and run inside the tackles. His combination of speed, power, and vision makes him nearly unstoppable. Henry Hynoski is a load of a fullback at 260 lbs, spending most of his day paving the way for Lewis. Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide form one of the best running back duos in the country. Asiata's thunder to Wide's lighting provides the perfect balanced running attack and each player should get 18+ carries against Pitt and it's not that much of a stretch to think these two could each rush for over 800 yards this year. Lewis may be the most complete back, but the duo of Wide and Lewis cancel him out making this a draw. Advantage: Even

Wide Receiver
Jereme Brooks , Luke Matthews and Shaky Smithson vs. Jonathan Baldwin and Mike Shanahan
Pitt has the best receiver on either team, but Utah might have the four best receivers after that. The Panthers aren't going too throw much with a new quarterback making his first career start on the road, but when they do, Jonathan Baldwin is going to get the ball thrown his way more often than not. Baldwin is a prototypical NFL receiver at 6'5" and 230 lbs while running a sub 4.4 40. He's one of the best in the country and creates matchups nightmares similar to how Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State and Mike Williams of USC used to. Mike Shanahan is a tall receiver without much experience. He was a Division 1 basketball recruit as well and can really jump. Might be an end zone weapon for Pitt. The Utes counter with Jereme Brooks, looking to improve on his 56 catches and 7 touchdowns in 2009. Brooks is a great possession receiver with the ability to turn a short pass into an 80 yard catch and run touchdown. Luke Matthews is a big, receiver looking to make a big impact after starting three games in 2009. While unproven, Matthews has a huge upside. Shaky Smithson brings the best hands on the Utah squad and is a do-everything type of player after splitting time in 2009 between wide receiver and running back. Nobody catches the ball along the sidelines better than Shaky. Despite the presence of Baldwin, the Utes' depth gives them the edge. Advantage: Utah

Tight End
Brad Clifford/Kendrick Moeia vs. Mike Cruz
Not a lot of catches for the tight ends of other team as Pitt lost two very productive seniors from 2009. Mike Cruz comes in with 1 career catch, although is was for a touchdown. Brad Clifford and Kendrick Moeia are likely to see equal time at tight end for Utah as they look to incorporate their ends into the passing game more in 2010 than in years' past. Clifford has 1 career catch for -2 yards. Moeia broke out in the Poinsettia Bowl for two touchdowns increasing his expectations for 2010 despite only 4 career catches. The inexperience and lack of production at this point from both sides makes this a draw. Advantage:Even

Left Tackle
John Cullen vs. Jason Pinkston
Pinkston is coming off an All Big East year in 2009 and is the leader of the offensive line. The senior has started 28 games in his career and is a big reason Pitt has had a 1,000 yard rusher in each of his years as a starter. John Cullen comes into Utah as the highest rated JC offensive line recruit and was handed the starting left tackle job. While he performed admirably in fall practice, Cullen still needs to add a little bulk. Without any Division 1 experience for Cullen and due to Pinkston's size, Pitt has the advantage. Advantage: Pitt

Left Guard
Caleb Schlauderaff vs. Chris Jacobson
Jacobson has one career start for Pitt while Schlauderaff is one of the top 10 left guards in the country. Caleb is a monster in the run game opening holes for Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata. This one is easy. Advantage: Utah

Center
Zane Taylor vs. Alex Karabin
Zane Taylor is the rock of the offensive line and a three year starter. Alex Karabin was a walk-on as recently as a few weeks ago. Taylor is like a second quarterback out there and will help Jordan Wynn with reads and audibles. Karabin, who will be making his first career start, is just hoping to get the ball to Sunseri without issue. Advantage: Utah

Right Guard
Tevita Stevens vs. Greg Gaskins
The redshirt junior Gaskins is a bit undersized and doesn't have much experience outside of special teams. Stevens took over the starting right guard spot midway through 2009 and is yet to give it up. The forgotten man on the offensive line, the sophomore is poised to be a 4 year starter. The experience of Stevens wins out. Advantage: Utah

Right Tackle
Tony Bergstrom vs. Lucas Nix
Nix is a big kid at 6'6" 305 lbs, and looks even bigger than that. He started all thirteen games in 2009 at right tackle as a big part of Dion Lewis' big year. A big time recruit coming out of high school, Nix has lived up to the billing so far. The Junior Bergstrom is poised for an All-Conference season in his second year as a full-time starter in 2010. He's very fundamentally sound, but prone to being beat by ends with a quick first step (see Jerry Hughes in 2009). This is about as close as it gets. Advantage: Even

Defensive Ends
Junior Tui'one and Christian Cox/Derrick Shelby vs Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard
I'm still of the belief that Shelby gets more reps than Cox once the game gets going. He is the better player. While the two of them, along with Junior Tui'one, are fine defensive ends, Pitt may have the best duo in the nation in Romeus and Sheard. Romeus is a monster at 6'6" 270 lbs who had 8 sacks in 2009, but is very versatile and makes plays all over the field. Sheard is another big guy at 6'4" 260 lbs who led the team with 12 QB hurries to go along with his 5 sacks. The Utes have good ends. Pitt has great ends. Advantage: Pitt

Defensive Tackle
Sealver Siliga and Dave Kruger vs Miles Caragein and Chas Alecxih
Caragein has only one career start under his belt while Alecxih is a former walk-on without a career start. Siliga started 9 games in 2009 and looked like the Utes' best defensive player in fall practice. Dave Kruger was a freshman All-American in 2009 after starting the final 7 games of the season. This is a pretty decisive mismatch. Advantage: Utah

Linebackers
Chad Manis, Matt Martinez, Chaz Walker vs Max Gruder, Dan Mason, and Tristan Roberts
Gruder led the team in tackles in 2009 and returns for his second year as a starter. The junior Roberts missed all of 2009 with an injury after a productive year in 2008 mostly as a reserve and on special teams. Mason started three games as a true freshman earning Big East Defensive Player of the Week against Navy with 11 tackles. A tremendous athlete, he should excel in the middle linebacker role. Manis and Martinez are definite starters while Walker might get bumped by J.J. Williams, depending on Williams' injury situation. Williams playing stands at 50/50 right now. Manis, Martinez, and Walker have no career starts between them while Williams hasn't started since 2006. While linebacker doesn't figure to be an area of strength for either team, Pitt has a slight edge. Advantage: Pitt

Cornerback
Brandon Burton and Lamar Chapman vs Ricky Gary and Antwaun Reed
Reed is in his first year as a starter, but did play in all 13 games in 2009 with one interception. The senior Gary started two games in 2010 with 16 tackles and one interception. Lamar Chapman will start over Conroy Black for the Utes after starting 4 games in 2009 with 2 interceptions. He's a little undersized and getting matched up with Jonathan Baldwin could be an issue. Brandon Burton is one of the premier corners in the Mountain West and will likely line up on Baldwin often. He has great size and speed and the battle between him and Baldwin could be epic. The experience and skills of Burton gives the Utes and edge at corner. Advantage: Even

Free Safety
Justin Taplin-Ross vs. Jared Holley
Holley started the final 8 games in 2009 making 48 tackles and 3 interceptions as a redshirt freshman. He was a very highly rated recruit and has been all the coaches had hoped so far. JTR easily won a starting safety job in fall practice and should be the quarterback in the secondary. A freak athlete with great size Taplin Ross started 1 game in 2009 making 29 tackles. Advantage: Even

Strong Safety
Brian Blechen vs Dom DeCicco
DeCicco is the best safety in the Big East and one of the best in the country with an imposing build at 6'4" 230 lbs. In his third year as a starter, he's had 7 interceptions over the past two seasons to go along with 88 tackles in 2009. Blechen is a true freshman who won the job in fall camp. He's loves to hit and has a great understanding of the game being a former quarterback in high school, but without any college experience is going to struggle somewhat to start the season. Advantage: Pitt

Kicker
Joe Phillips vs. Dan Hutchins
Hutchins was a second team All-Big East kicker after going 23-29 in 2009 and is a Lou Groza Award candidate. In his first year as the Utes' kicker, Phillips was 20-22 and is also a Lou Groza Award candidate. Both of these kickers are very reliable and a real weapon. Each is a top 20 kicker in the country. Advantage: Even

Punter
Sean Sellwood vs Dan Hutchins
Hutchins also handles punting duties and had an average of 41.1 in 2009. Sellwood was a freshman All-American in 2009 and has a big leg averaging 42.9 yards per punt. He also has a knack for pinning opponents deep as he placed 19 kicks inside the 20 yard line. Advantage: Utah

Kick/Punt Returner
Shaky Smithson vs. Cameron Saddler
Saddler put up impressive numbers in limited return duty in 2009 averaging 25.3 yards per kick return and 11.7 yards per punt return. Shaky averaged 24.7 yards per kick return in 2009 and 9.5 yards per punt return last season. While neither player has taken a kick back for a touchdown, both are poised to do so this year. Advantage: Even

Totals- Utah 7 Pitt 4 Even 7

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