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Opponent Q&A: Talking Utah Utes Football

The Utes are banged up and seeking bowl eligibility; we learn more from Shane Roberts of ‘Block U’

San Jose State v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Earlier this week we had the chance to talk to Shane Roberts, Managing Editor for the SBN community Block U regarding this week’s matchup with the Huskies.

Here’s what we learned in our Q&A:

UWDP: Rather than a question about QB Tyler Huntley, I’ll give my analysis from what I have seen and you tell me how far off I am: He is gifted athletically with a strong and accurate arm. He seems to be one-read, then break the pocket, which could be the design to keep things simpler for him. His upside is through the roof, but he needs a little “QB 101” (I have seen him scramble and throw downfield on Run-Pass-Option plays where the linemen only hold at the LOS for a beat or two --then release-- resulting in penalties for lineman downfield).

Shane: I think that’s an accurate assessment of the young QB. The steps he took between last year when he first joined the program to now is amazing to me. He needs a little more help up front, but when he’s in a rhythm he’s really good. I think I can speak for many Utah fans saying we can’t wait to see this young man develop.

Washington State v Utah
Quarterback Tyler Huntley has 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions on the season. The sophomore has completed nearly 65% of his pass attempts.
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

UWDP: Where would the Ute offense be without Oregon transfer Darren Carrington? The guy has been outstanding with twice as many catches as any other Utah player despite missing last week’s game. What is his status for Saturday? Who else should Husky fans know about in the passing game? How has the pass protection been?

Shane: I wouldn’t want to think about it too much, because he was a monster his first seven or eight games on campus. Considering what he’s done and being less than 100% most of the season is impressive. I think right now I’d consider him as “questionable” for the game Saturday. Utah has a nice group of wide outs. Raelon Singleton is a very nice receiver, and has good size with the ability to make tough defended catches. He’s not a burner, but he has the ability to get open. Siaosi Wilson is one of my favorites, because he makes big catches and I think is the wide receiver to lead the Utes after this season. Huntley’s high school teammate, Demari Simpkins is a nice slot receiver, and has picked up almost 200 yards the last couple of games due to Carrington not being available. As for the pass pro, it’s not the best right now. They’ve been shuffling some linemen due to injury, and it’s almost quarter to quarter how well they play, which is maddening.

UWDP: Zack Moss was really heating up this season, but is now listed as injured. What is his status? Who would carry the load if Moss is out or limited? How has the O-Line looked in the running game?

Shane: I think he’ll go, but I’m not confident of that. If he can’t go it will be a group of guys, lead by Devonta’e Henry-Cole. DHC is a nice scat back who is hard to bring down. He has a nice feel for the blocks and the ability to find a crease. Jordan Howard would likely get some run too, and he’s a bit of a bruiser, and can get some tough yards too. If Moss can’t go, though, there are some major concerns about the run game, because he’s very talented. Similar to pass pro, the line in the run game has been hot or not. Again, quarter by quarter performance, and something we hope they clean up as we move into the remainder of the season, and into spring and beyond. Let’s not forget, Utah sent 4 o-linemen to the NFL, so these struggles aren’t a huge surprise.

UWDP: Washington is down six starters due to injury. Utah has a M.A.S.H. unit of their own. Tell us about the injuries Utah has dealt with.

Shane: Well, we’ve touched on Carrington and Moss, but Utah’s starting safety duo is a mash unit. One (Marquise Blair) is out for the season and the other (Chase Hansen) has missed games this season, including against WSU last week. Kylie Fitts, the starting right d-end has been up and down all season, and the other starting end, Bradlee Anae has been beat up. Sunia Tauteoli, a starting linebacker, missed WSU, and I’m not sure of his status for Saturday. Also, both of Utah’s starting corners were shaken up against WSU, Julian Blackmon and Casey Hughes, and I don’t recall them finishing the game. As of now, who knows who will be ready for Saturday.

UWDP: Utah is third in the Pac-12 in total defense. How has the unit performed in your opinion? Who are some key defenders to watch?

Shane: They've performed “ok” I’d say. The run game hasn’t been awesome. Utah got burned by both ASU and Oregon on the perimeter, when the defensive ends couldn’t pinch down. The concern going into the season was the new secondary, as Utah replaced everybody in the back end, except for Hansen, and they’ve played really well. Luke Falk threw 69 times, and only had 311 yards, and most of that was due to the coverage of the young DBs. They’ve had a harder time getting to QBs this year, largely because I think Fitts has really been banged up since Arizona, and he’s a menace, but he’s just lost a step due to a bad ankle.

NCAA Football: Utah at Oregon
Junior Chase Hansen is the leader in a young Utah secondary.
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

UWDP: How pleased were Utah fans two weeks ago when they went to turn on the UCLA game, only to find FS1 showing Truck Racing. How many laps of left-turn-only did you endure while you tried to find the game streaming online. (UW fans had the same thing happen to them last Friday).

Shane: Just as thrilled as UW fans this past week. I was in the press box at Rice-Eccles Stadium, so I was in good shape, but Twitter was a blaze because of the silliness of Truck Racing. I mean, come on, truck racing? The wait wasn’t as bad as UW’s, but it’s embarrassing as a league.

UWDP: Prediction for Saturday night?

Shane: I think Utah, right now, is kind of like Washington of a couple of years ago. They’re learning how to win, and they’re growing together. This team is full of sophomores, and they are having some growing pains (as well as regular pains). Combine the youth and the injuries with it being in Seattle, I’m taking UW 34-21. UW’s the better team, and there’s no shame in that, it’s all about getting to 6 wins for Utah and building toward a big 2018 and 2019. If Utah’s o-line can get it figured out for four quarters and give Huntley some time, I do think Utah can give UW a serious scare in this one.

Thanks Shane. For more on the game from the Utah perspective, check out Block U.