We turned to our friends at Block U, Utah’s SB Nation site, for some insight on the Utes since they know them far better than we do.
Here’s our Q&A with managing editor Shane Roberts.
Give me a quick breakdown of Utah's season so far
About as expected, honestly. The Utes have played three teams they're more talented than, and have taken care of business by being 3-0.
Tyler Huntley has proven he is a dynamic playmaker, and Darren Carrington is a major force for the Utes. The defense also appears to have reloaded nicely, while the secondary is a bit young, they have a lot of playmakers back there. The d-line is also still loaded.
What are Utah’s strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths — on offense the wide receiving corps is very impressive led by Carrington. Huntley has proven to be a major throwing threat and will punish people on the ground as well. On defense, it’s that front seven; that group is nasty and will hit people in the mouth. They are a lot of fun to watch.
Weaknesses — on offense, I’d say the inexperience of the o-line. They’re still jelling and getting used to each other. They have been a bit inconsistent at times in protection, both pass and run. The inexperience of Huntley too is a bit of a weakness, but he’s learning quick.
On defense, it’s the secondary, because of the inexperience. They have a bunch of fast long dudes back there, but they don’t have a ton of live game reps, so they’re learning on the fly.
What's been your impression of Tyler Huntley? What skill set does he bring to the table?
Very impressive. I was in the Troy Williams camp due to him winning nine games last year, and him being a senior, however, Huntley has won me over big time.
Huntley did concern me because in spring he had very happy feet and would bail out of the pocket whenever things were get dicey. While he still does that from time to time, it seems he’s settled down in that area overall.
He’s a true dual threat. He is very shifty and very good in the read option. He’s Utah’s leading rusher and gets nice chunks on the ground. He’s also very accurate completing 72% of his passes and has passed for 868 yards (over 300 the past two games). He also runs to pass, so he’ll escape pressure and make plays on the run.
I’m impressed on how resilient he is, too. After a couple of bad turnovers, his head never hung and he’d just come back and make a big play his next opportunity. I’m beyond excited to see this young guy grow and develop.
What type of impact has Darren Carrington made so far?
Wow. He’s a stud. He already has 409 yards through the air and four TDs, and I don’t think we’ve seen him really go off yet. Everything looks so easy to him out there. He’s been a major piece to Utah’s offensive attack, and will continue to be moving forward.
Utah’s wide outs were good going into the season, but the addition of Carrington has made them elite.
Who are some players to watch on defense?
The entire defensive line. Kylie Fitts, if he plays, is a monster at defensive end and has been unstoppable so far this season. Filipo Mokofisi and Lowell Lotulelei will stop up the middle. In the secondary, there’s Chase Hansen, but he’s been banged up and may not go.
There’s also Jaylon Johnson, the corner Utah flipped from USC has been a stud so far this season, he hasn’t been tested much because he’s so good out there. The linebackers are very good and like too hit too, Kavika Luafatasaga and Sunia Tauteoli are fun to watch. I love this defensive unit thus far.
Rich Rodriguez said this Utah team is the most athletic team they've had. Do you agree?
Very much so. Utah had a top-25 recruiting class last year, and a top 35-ish class the year before, and that’s starting to show. Utah has more speed in their secondary as a whole than they’ve likely ever had. And, of course, the addition of Carrington to the wide outs has jumped that side of the ball up another notch.
Why do you think Utah has struggled against Arizona since joining the Pac-12?
Utah’s defense has struggled with Rich Rod’s system on offense. Utah’s defense has always been so aggressive that Arizona would punish them when they’d over pursue or lose containment. Over the last couple of years, they’ve gotten that more under control, with the offense holding the Utes back two years ago, and finally getting it all put together last year.
How much are Utah fans fearing an upset? What is concerning about Arizona?
There’s always fear with that system Rick Rod runs, but I’d say everyone feel cautiously optimistic. As long as Utah is disciplined they should be fine. I mean disciplined on both sides of the ball, meaning being assignment and gap sound on defense, and giving Huntley the protection he needs to be comfortable on the road.
I trust Utah’s defense to stop Arizona’s offense more than I trust Arizona’s defense to stop Utah’s offense. I’m thinking this game is in the neighborhood of 33-24 with a Utah win.
Thanks again to Shane Roberts of Block U for giving us some insight on Utah. Check out Utah’s perspective of Friday’s game at BlockU.com.