Scouting the M-West: Utah

The Utes have been awfully competitive under Ron McBride and continually put quality prospects into the middle rounds of the NFL Draft but never seem to get "over the hump" and usually end up losing out to rival BYU for the conference championship. That may not be the case in '02 as they have a real shot at the league title and may also have the best linebacker in the country you've never heard about.

Utah Utes

On offense we like what we've seen from tackle Jordan Gross the past two seasons. A big physical blocker, Gross plays with solid fundamentals and destroys opponents, blowing them off the line of scrimmage run blocking while not giving up an inch of ground in pass protection. He's heady, nasty and fights hard, usually winning out in battles but his footwork and lateral range are below par making him a right side player at the next level and likely a middle round draft selection. Receiver Josh Lyman, who's shown a lot of flashes in the past, now takes over the duties as the Utes primary wide out and a big senior campaign could push him into the late frames.

Their top prospect could well be linebacker Sheldon Deckert,  "the rover" (great Zeppelin song for those in the know) in Utah's defense who projects to the weak-side at the next level. Deckert combines brain and brawn to get the job done, reading or anticipating the action and quickly getting to the spot in order to make the tackle. Effective in either pass or run defense, Deckert flies around the field making tons of plays but is always under control. The difference between Deckert being a top sixty pick and an early second day selection? About two inches, which may move him down an equal amount of rounds, as he tips the scales around 6-foot 1-inch. Garrett Smith is a quick inside plugger that clogs the middle but a defensive lineman who must improve his techniques and ability to play with leverage. Still; his size/strength combo are enough to get him middle round consideration. Utah has never been at a loss for speed on its' roster and the next burner that could move up draft boards is Antwoine Savage, a versatile defensive back that can be used at either corner or safety and a prospect with a high upside. Lastly keep an eye on another pair of juniors; defensive ends Josh Savage and yet another Kafusi making his way through Utah, Jason Kafusi, as both are fierce off the edge and offer a lot of upfield penetration.



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