February 6th, 2019 is a day a number of Utah fans still remember quite well. Just months before, Jack Tuttle, the highly touted freshman quaterback looked to be the future of Utah football, before deciding to transfer, eventually landing at Indiana. The fan base was in a state of panic. Utah’s coaching staff had opted not to peruse the in-state phenom in Zack Wilson, who eventually committed to BYU, and were now left with questions as to who the next quarterback would be once Tyler Huntley’s career was over. All eyes then turned to Cajon High recruit, Jayden Daniels.
The four star recruit was the second ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class and for weeks appeared to be a lock to join the Utes, reigniting the excitement that had been cooled off in the wake of Tuttle’s departure, but as time wore on, whispers of Arizona State swooping in began to circulate, and before long, Utah lost one of their top targets, committing to ASU on December 13, 2018, and eventually signing on February 6th, the following year. Daniels now visits the team he once seemed destined to join as the starting quarterback for the Sun Devils as a true freshman.
In his first six games, Daniels has complied an impressive 63.1% completion rating, passing for 1610 with 111 completions on 176 attempts, averaging 9.1 yards per pass with eight touchdowns and just one interception. Add to that another 198 yards on the ground from 58 carries and another two rushing touchdowns, and Daniels is living up to the hype that surrounded him during Utah’s recruiting efforts.
Daniels has led the team to a 5-1 record thanks to his mobility, a crucial skill set considering the Sun Devil’s offensive line has proven to be a weak point for the program in 2019, but at 6’3”, 175 lbs, its obvious the freshman is woefully undersized when compared to Utah’s stout defensive line, which has the potential to spell trouble for the true freshman.
Much like last week’s contest against Oregon State where receiver Isaiah Hodgins was the clear number one target, the Sun Devil’s rely heavily on senior wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Reeling in a team-high 31 receptions for 651 yards, the athletic senior is averaging a wholloping 21 yards per catch, along with 5 touchdowns, making Aikyuk the biggest scoring threat outside of their star running back.
The PAC-12’s leading rushing defense will be tested once again by junior running back, Eno Benjamin. The 5’10”, 201 lb boulder was viewed as one of the top rushers in the conference before the season, but is only averaging 4.2 yards per carry, a drastic drop off from is 2018 average of 5.5 yards, gaining 1642 yards on the season. At this rate, Benjamin has gained only 529 yards on the ground on 125 attempts, but has managed to find the end zone nine times, excluding two receiving touchdowns.
When all is said and done, ASU may be one of the most talented all-around offensive units the Utes have faced in 2019, however there’s plenty of glaring weaknesses for Utah’s defense to exploit in order to clinch another victory.