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Q&A with Block U: Talking Utah Utes Football

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Learn more about the 7-1 team from Salt Lake City

Southern Utah v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Earlier this week we talked with Shane Roberts, managing editor for the SB Nation community Block U regarding this week’s matchup with Utah.

Here's what we learned in our Q&A:

UWDP: Quarterback Troy Williams is a gunslinger, we know that from his days at Washington. His 55% completion percentage is something we can pretty easily understand after watching his style of play at UW. How confident does Williams behind center make you feel as a Utes fan? What do you make of this "revenge" thing that the media is trying to hype up?

Shane: Very confident. Troy has the swagger and confidence you want from a QB, and with him only being a junior we expect big things from him. I'm not sure the game and a half be played at Washington is truly what Troy will be in the future. He's actually very accurate, he's had some bad drops and the Oregon State wind storm didn't help him much.

I think the revenge factor is to be expected. Sounds like he wasn't given a shot by the UW coaching staff once Sark took off. He already is a film junkie and a motivator for his team, so this will no doubt help him lock in even more.

UWDP: Tell us about the the Wide Receiving corps and Tight Ends? What is the status of leading receiver Tim Patrick for Saturday? Britain Covey had a great freshman season a year ago. What happened to him?

Shane: Patrick is the leader of the group, and is a major threat. He's battled some injuries since the Cal game, missing two games, but had a TD waved off against UCLA. Cory Butler-Byrd is a deep threat that you have to watch out for, and is very dangerous in space. You'll see him get touches on various positions. Demari Simpkins, Evan Moeai and Raelon Singleton are all targets that will also be seeing some action.

As for Covey, he's currently on his two year Mormon mission in Chile.

UWDP: Joe Williams has had quite the rebirth at running back. How surprised are you that he is playing so well? What are his strengths (besides running really fast through gaping holes)? Speaking of nice running lanes, how has the offensive line performed this season in the running game and in pass protection?

Shane: In the preseason we were expecting a 1000 yard back with Joe, but the first two games he just wasn't the same guy. After his short retirement of 4 weeks, he looks a lot like the guy we saw fill in for Devontae Booker last year. His strength is no doubt his speed. He's a 4.3 40 guy and really can move.

The offensive line started a little slow this year, and being down to the 4th string center didn't help. They are very good at run blocking, and almost as good pass blocking. Watch out for Utahs left guard, he's a nasty dude and will be a high round draft pick either this year or next.

UWDP: Utah traditionally has excellent kickers. How would you rate the special teams and the Utah kicking game? Any particularly dangerous return men?

Shane: They are very good all around. Andy Phillips is back and he's a three time Lou Groza semi finalist. Two time Ray Guy winner Tom Hackett has moved on, but he's been replaced with Mitch Wishnowsky, who had been named the Ray Guy punter of the week twice this season. The return game is improving, including Cory Butler-Byrd's kick off return for a TD last week, so he's a guy you'll have to watch out for.

UWDP: How do you explain the success UCLA had last week through the air? How has the pass defense been overall this season? Is the defensive line still the strength of the Utes defense? Who are the players to watch out for on the defensive side?

Shane: A couple of things: UCLA went full on Wazzu on us and threw the ball 70 times. Being down two of our better cover guys hurt, including safety Marcus Williams. Not to mention some of the secondary guys were allergic to tackling at points during the game, making short gains a lot bigger than they should have been.

The pass defense has been up and down. Opposing teams will pop a big one and then Utah will get a pick a play later.

The defensive line has been the strength for 20 years and continues to be. It's led by Lowell Lotulelei, a monster in the middle of the d line. Hunter Dimick is back and healthy, and has been a beast most of the year. If Marcus Williams is able to play, he's a name to watch out for on the back end.

UWDP: ESPN Gameday will be in Salt Lake for this game. What was the reaction when that was announced?

Shane: It's the second straight year GameDay is in SLC and the fourth time in 15 years, and fans love it. Anytime the fellas come to town it adds to the atmosphere. It wasn't a surprise they were going to come, we all had a hunch of Utah and Washington took care of business the show would come.

UWDP: What is your prediction for this game?

Shane: I think Troy Williams and the offensive line are going to dictate this game, and the crowd along with the defensive line get to Browning a couple of times. I like Utah in a slug fest 23-20.

UWDP: Thanks Shane. For more on the game from the Utah perspective, be sure to check out Block U on SB nation.