On my way into work today, I was listening to the “Hans and OC Show” on 1280 The Zone. (Side note: This is by far the best show in the market, and most people are probably listening to the mindless games of PK, make the switch people!)
They were discussing the matchup of Boise versus Utah, and as any good media person would do, stated that a key to the game for Utah would be to get pressure on Kellen Moore (Side note: Why do they bother to say this, isn’t this obvious? The fact that the opposing quarterback needs to feel pressure is so fundamental, it should go without saying.)
“OC” then talked about how Utah’s D-line has struggled this year to establish a pass rush and it isn’t going to happen now. All the while, I am thinking to myself “This guy is an idiot! Doesn’t he know that Utah has an 11 man rotation along the D-line? Doesn’t he know that at least 6 of those guys will be playing in the NFL? What an idiot!”
As I listened to his argument, it made a lot of sense, and so I wanted to bounce it off of my good friends at Block U and I even applied it to some other areas of the team.
Does Utah have too much depth? It’s certainly a better problem than the alternative, but it can be (and has been) a problem this year.
Frankly, he is right, the pass rush from the front four has been somewhat disappointing this year. With so many guys playing, there hasn’t been a chance to get into a groove. And it has paid dividends, good and bad.
Good thing is, outside of Trevor Reilly, no one has been hurt. Everyone has remained healthy. The bad thing; everyone seems out of sync.
I don’t blame the coaches; Utah literally has 11 guys who deserve to be playing. And they certainly don’t want bad feelings and complaints. With James Aiono, Latu Heimuli, Star Lotulelei, Neli A’asa, and Tevita Finau, the Utes have five backup defensive tackles who would be starting at most other schools in the country. Not just the conference, but the country.
On this show, their main example was Shelby. You have a guy like that who plays three downs, gets subbed out for three plays and then goes back in. He doesn’t establish any rhythm and as a result is not effective when he is in there. Once he finds a rhythm, he is taken out of the game and loses it.
The facts are that Shelby has more talent than Koa Misi and Paul Kruger. Next season, he needs to be the right end and he needs 85% of the reps there. Sorry Reilly, sorry Kruger, you can earn your time later. Finau needs to start on the other end, and the same thing, get 80-85% of the reps. Kruger and Reilly can pick up the rest.
In the middle, I haven’t really been impressed with Dave Kruger this year. It is probably the same thing. Next season, A’asa and possibly Sealver Siliga will be gone. The coaching staff needs to find out who the best players are and give them 70-75% of the reps. If it’s Latu and Star, they get the reps. If its Aiono and Kruger, same thing.
At the same time, these are all extremely talented players. Many of whom are NFL-caliber. Is it fair to sit them for most of the game? Will they get frustrated and transfer, or worse, cause problems in the locker room?
It’s a tough call, but it’s one that needs to be made. The coaches need to give the majority of the reps to the best players and the backups need to be ready in case injuries happen. If they aren’t happy in that role, feel free to transfer. There is always more in the pipeline.
The same thing can be said about the receiving core. I think the struggles and disconnect have occurred because there are too many talented receivers in the mix. Remember the Sugar Bowl year? The Utes had five receives in the mix. These five shared the three to four slots and Brian Johnson was able to get into a rhythm with all of them. Additionally, their talents were varied so that defenses had a lot to worry about.
Freddie Brown was a big target with good hands. Bradon Godfrey could get open over the middle and take a hit and still hang on. Brent Casteel and David Reed could both put on the jets. Jereme Brooks was quick and could get himself open.
Next year, I’d like to see a six-man rotation, and that’s it. I want to see DeVonte Christopher, Luke Matthews, Reggie Dunn, Dexter Ransom, Martavious Lee, and Kenneth Scott. Sorry Fatu Moala. Sorry Griff McNabb. Sorry Seand Fitzgerald, Terrell Reese, and Dres Anderson. Your time will come, but it’s not now. The main six should get the most reps so that Wynn can establish a rhythm with them.
As far as the running back goes, look back to the Ron McBride years. Chris Ma’fala had Juan Johnson. Mike Anderson had Omar Bacon. Dameon Hunter had Adam Tate. Marty Johnson had Brandon Warfield.
We need to have one guy who is “the man” and another guy who can provide relief. I feel like Matt and Eddie never had a chance to develop a rhythm and neither had a clear role. Subsequently, neither was as effective as they could have been.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice problem to have. But, the Utes need the best players to play and establish a rhythm. Roles need to be clear and defined. The guys who don’t make the top need to be ready to go when their number is called.
Trying to be all things to all people has never worked. The coaching staff needs to make the tough calls, even if it hurts some feelings. It will be good for the team as a whole.