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Utah on My Mind Part II: Utah v. Michigan Q & A with the Mountain West Conference Connection

With the season opener around the corner it is certainly time to provide you with a little more insight into the season that places to go in Ann Arbor when you're hungry. So, the Mountain West Conference Connection Blog and I got together to do a little Q & A on the game. You probably remember the prior Q&A I did with Block U, so use this as a defensive set of answers to the questions Utah's veteran team will pose for the Wolverines. I answered Jeremy's questions a couple of days ago and you can find my answers there.

For now, sit back and enjoy the great stuff from Jeremy over at the Mountain West Conference Connection.

Q & A with MWCC:

Maize n Brew:  Block U was kind enough to fill us in on Utah's base offense (evil, maniacal laugh). Now its your turn to betray your flock.Tell us who we have to shut down. Who are your stars on offense? (and if he's a lineman that counts, too.)

Mountain West Conference Connection: The offense is loaded with returning talent at all of the key skill positions.  Everything runs through quarterback Brian Johnson, because if he is healthy the Utes are a dangerous team, just go back and look once he came back to start he lost just the one game against BYU on the last play.  In 2005 Johnson's first full year as a starter he had better numbers then Alex Smith did in 2004 before he tore his ACL late in the season against New Mexico.  The talent is there, but Johnson must stay healthy, and with Johnson in the game the play book is much more open then if someone else were to play under center.  Johnson is an ideal quarterback to run the option with his ability to take off and run with his speed and now that his arm is healthy he can beat the defense with the pass.  The only concern Johnson has had too many turnovers and then when running the option he needs to improve in attacking the line when running the option.  Again if Johnson is healthy he is equal if not better to Max Hall the quarterback at BYU.

Darrell Mack was a pleasant surprise at running back last year, because he was to redshirt but the injury to Matt Asiata forced Mack in who then ran for over 1,000 and became the first Utah running back to do so since Quinton Ganther in 2005.  With all accounts of Matt Asiata healthy the Utah running game will be very dangerous with both backs.  Expect to see multiple sets with both backs in at the same time and to be involved in the short passing game, as well.

The wide receivers are all full of experience in this offense, but the most explosive is Brent Casteel, who back when a freshman proclaimed he would win the Heisman for Utah.   He is a bold player with bold predictions and can back it up, except for the Heisman talk.  Casteel last year hurt his knee early in the season and was out, but look for the same player to be involved in the running game and short passing game.  Casteel is a speed player that can make the big plays, and will be in the return game at times.

The best over all receiver is Brandon Godfrey, he is capable of going across the middle, going deep, and a great possession receiver.  Last year he had 50 catches for 524, yeah that is not a lot but the ball is spread to many different players.

Center Zane Beadles is a junior and stud on the offensive line.

Maize n Brew: What about the Utah D? What kind of set are you running? Any coaching changes or scheme changes worth noting?

Mountain West Conference Connection: The defense will be young and inexperienced on the line which is troublesome since last year the Utes gave up nearly 4 yards per carry with all conference performers on the line.  The defensive line will struggle, but the coaches always seem to get the defense in line just look at last year when the secondary was suppose to be the weak point.  This did take a few weeks to get things under control, so I fully expect the Utes to give up some big running plays.  The line does have some solid players and one is Koa Misi who has had an impressive fall camp and the other is true freshman David Kruger who may not start but see a lot of time.

Utah does not run anything fancy on defense they run a 4-3, but the secondary will be very strong this year.  Last year Robert Johnson was a big playmaker for the Utes, in his first start against then 10 ranked UCLA he was named the national defensive player of the week and makes big plays on defense.  The secondary over all will be the best part of the defense with many players returning, and as for the inexperience up front head coach Kyle Whittingham is a former defensive coordinator and current defensive coordinator Gary Anderson will have the front seven of the defense ready and playing at a high level.

Maize n Brew: Who should we watch for when your defense hit the field? who are your stars on Defense?

Mountain West Conference Connection: I guess I gave it away with defensive back Robert Johnson who is a ball hawk and will make plays in the secondary, also Johnson is a preseason all conference player.  The other two deffensive start who are also on the pre season all conference team is line backe Stevenson Sylvester, and also defensive end Paul Kruger.  Sylvester has had significant playing time in his two years in the program and finally gets to be the man at linebacker.

Paul Krueger is only a sophomore, but is one of the best in the league at defensive end.  Krueger will see a lot of double teams which will open up other defensive lineman and blitzing linebackers, so Krueger may not put up huge numbers but he will be a key player in line by opening up opportunities for other players.

Maize n Brew: Are there any redshirt or incoming freshmen you're excited about?

Mountain West Conference Connection: As for true freshman there is four-star recruit David Kruger brother of  Paul Kruger and was one of the nation's most sought after defensive line recruits.  He will not start, at least not this early but he will be part of the defensive line roatation.
Matt Asiata who was a transfer from Snow College broke his leg last year and had only four carries, so technically he is not a Freshman or redhshirt guy.  He is a new addition to the team and was supposed to be the starter last year until he got hurt, and this year will split time with Darrell Mack.

A player that most likely will not be a factor in this first game is Aiona Key who is a wide receiver transfer, but his grades are being slow to be posted by his junior college.  Key was suppose to compete for a starting job once he walked on campus, because he is a speed guy with size at 6'4.  His progress will be delayed and he may not even see the field agaisnt Michigan, but loook for him to be a primary target once he gets the plays down. 
Maize n Brew: Predictions for Saturday?

Mountain West Conference Connection: The game will be very close, because of all the turnover Michigan had on offense and toss in that the running back and quarterback position has yet to be defined.  I just think that is too much to over come and I can see Utah winning 27-20, but I would not be surprised if Michigan were to win.

Thanks, Jeremy, great stuff. I hope Utah wins every game but their game on Saturday.