Here’s what we learned in our Q&A:
UWDP: Tyler Huntley is a dangerous weapon who does the unexpected, and can be a real wildcard. How has he looked so far in his second season as the starter? He was sacked six times last week. What is going on with the offensive line?
Shane: It’s just early season struggles. It’s hard to pin point exactly what’s wrong with the offensive line, but they just have been streaky, and last week they had a hard time with NIU’s speedy and small defensive front. I think we may see some tweaking of the line if there are struggles again this week. As for Huntley, he’s looked good. He’s been very efficient and has taken care of the ball well. He’s thrown for 565 yards, 4 TDs, only 1 pick (which he was hit while throwing) and has completed 63.4% of his passes. He still has to clean up some decision making a bit, mostly in the RPO game, but he’s done well in the pocket this season, and has taken a step forward, even if it’s not as big as a step as what some were hoping.
UWDP: Britain Covey is back after two seasons off. Has he picked up where he left off as a freshman? Who are the other top receiving targets?
Shane: He’s better. Man, he’s just dynamic, and looks like a video game out there. Nobody can really get a square shot on him, and he just has a nose for the open field. Other top ones are still being determined right now, but a couple of freshmen have really jumped out. Jaylen Dixon has a couple of real deep balls (40+ yards) this season, and has played well all the way since spring. Solomon Enis, a true freshman, has looked really good too, and has broken into the two deep, and his future is beyond bright.
Bronson Boyd will likely get more run too, a transfer from Texas Tech, he has played well too. The others, like Demari Simpkins and Siaosi Mariner, are talented but they’ve dropped too many balls for my liking.
UWDP: Zack Moss went down with an ankle injury last week at Northern Illinois. It didn’t look good. Is he expected to play this week? Who else might we see at running back?
Shane: I’m not sure. All indications are he’ll play, but it also seems like they may hold him back with the bye being next week. We won’t know for sure until game time, but I wouldn’t be surprised either way. There’s Armand Shyne, he’s missed the last year and a half with injuries, but was emerging as Utah’s starting running back before he blew his knee out in 2016. TJ Green is a redshirt freshman that will get some run, and he looks very talented as well.
UWDP: The defense has been good for Utah so far. Tell us about the defensive line, and how Chase Hansen is handling the switch from safety to linebacker. Who has taken his place in the secondary? Who are the top players on this defense?
Shane: The defensive line, and the whole defense, have been dominate to this point. Bradlee Anae is back, and he’s the pass rusher on the outside and has played well so far. Leki Fotu and Mika Tafua have played really well as well. It’s a fun group to watch. And Chase Hansen’s move to linebacker was a long time coming, he was basically a linebacker playing safety the last couple of seasons. He has slid seamlessly into the roll and has played incredibly the first couple games. Corrian Ballard and Marquise Blair on the back end, and they were both safeties last season, but one has just moved into the starting roll. Both are head hunters, and Blair is an old school, Ed Reed type of safety.
Another top player would be Julian Blackmon at corner. He’s so smart, and he may be one of the most scouted players by the NFL on Utah’s defense.
UWDP: The Utah special teams always seems to be good. Is the kicking game strong again this season? How about the rest of the special teams?
Shane: Yes, but there has been some struggles in the kicking game this season. We do return both a Ray Guy winner and a Lou Groza winner, so there is a ton of talent back there. The struggles in the kicking game have come from a couple blocked field goals, but each were for different reasons. If they get that cleaned up they’ll be in great shape. As for the rest, Utah is utilizing the fair catch rule on kick off just about on every kick off, so nothing to say there. The punt return game has had a few turnovers by the ball bouncing off of blockers, but I’d expect that to be cleaned up quickly.
UWDP: Prediction for Saturday night?
Shane: It’s going to be hard hitting, #Pac12AfterDark type of game. Utah let UW come back and win that game in Seattle last year, and I believe the different home venue, and the increased experience by the Utes will put them over the top 24-20 in an incredibly hard fought game.
Thanks Shane. Be sure to check out Block U for more on the game from the Utah perspective.