How big of a drop-off has the Utah offense taken since Jordan Wynn went down? Is the offense struggling simply because of the limitations of Jon Hays?
Quite honestly, it's not that big of a drop off due to the fact that Wynn really never looked the way that he did as a freshman. In the UNC game, he did not look very sharp on any passes that were beyond 8 yards and against Utah State he looked incredibly uncomfortable the entire time, before he got hurt. I actually believe the offense would be in worse shape Wynn was still playing today due to the physical limitations he had from multiple shoulder injuries.
Jon Hays's limitations are different. He does not read defenses well and cannot or will not change a play at the line of scrimmage. I would have to say that's the biggest limitation on him and its hard to say whether that comes from a lack of ability or the coaching staff has not given him that as an option.
Do you believe calls to play Travis Wilson this season are premature, or well within reason? Why?
Calls for Wilson to play are based in two things in my opinion. First, I think some fans see this season as being lost at 2-3 and they know that Wilson is future and want to see him get experience so that he can come out strong in 2013 as a starting sophomore (Hays is a senior in 2012). Second, fans know what they get with Hays who has yet to break the 200 yard mark in a single game in 12 starts. Personally, while I think that the season isn't lost yet and that Wilson gives the Utes a better chance to win now and with the Utes switching to a full spread offense in the middle of the season point to the fact that they want to put Wilson in a situation where he can be successful as he was a spread quarterback in high school. The saying around here is that "Hays makes plays", but the offense is very limited under him and "Three and out" series are a big problem for him. Smart defenses should take away the run and force Hays to beat them with his arm which he rarely does.
John White has simply struggled to get going. Are defenses keying in on him and limiting his production, or is he simply having trouble producing as the main offensive cog?
John White's lack of productivity is based on three things: Now one is surprised by him and keys their defense to stop him, two, he was not given meaningful snaps during the spring and fall camps that caused his skills in reading holes, following blocks and making sharp cuts to degrade a bit and three, the Utah offensive line is not as strong as they were in 2012. He had his best game so far this year against USC and looked more like his old self and hopefully that will bode well for him the rest of the way.
The Utah defense has one big Star inside but seems to struggle in other areas. Talk about the support Lotulelei needs from his teammates.
You noticed that too. Well, it all comes down to linebackers and the Utes have really struggled replacing Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez who accounted for over 200 tackles last season. They have tried a half a dozen combinations of players to fill those spots without a tremendous amount of success. They even pulled a redshirted freshman off the bench, Reshawn Hooker, to try to solve this issue last week. It looks like he played well enough against USC to get another shot at it this week against UCLA.
It should also be said that Brian Blechen's suspesion has had a huge affect on the defense so far. Even though he was suspended for 3 games for violating team rules, his performance in his first two games back as been rusty and inconsistent at best. He needs to show up at UCLA and make his presence known.
If you were to look down the schedule and project games Utah has a chance at winning this season, could you find the four wins they need to get to a bowl game?
Looking at their schedule, I think the four games that give the Utes the best chance for wins are Colorado (I'm sure everyone counts on that game, even WSU...oops), and home game against Washington State. From there, the would need to steal a game from Cal or Arizona at home (hopefully it will be really cold and cause those teams to be uncomfortable) and then get a win on the road from either UCLA, who seems beatable after their loss to Cal or at a Mannion-less Oregon State on the road.
There's no guarantees in any of those games so it's going to be a nail bitter to the end. If they leave Corvalis at 2-5, I just don't see them pulling it off though.
SB Nation snippets
Against USC, though, there were signs of Utah actually committing to an offensive identity. The Utes, finally, ran some semblance of the spread ... something Johnson had discussed running throughout spring and fall camps.
To be sure, the offense isn't exactly explosive and they definitely had their issues, but it was nice watching a real offense unfold out there. I don't know if the coaching staff specifically waited until last Thursday to unveil this offense, or if Kyle Whittingham finally trusted Johnson enough to let him run his own offense - but whatever the reason, I like it. I like it because at least now I know what we're doing and even if there are some kinks to work out, it's important this offense settle on a philosophy instead of taking an all of the above approach.
Two main factors keep me in "wait and see" mode. One, Hundley is a redshirt freshman. There are more than a few examples of freshmen quarterbacks succeeding. But there are more examples of freshman starters who got better over time. There are just moments when Hundley plays, for lack of a better word, young. It’s eerily similar to Cade McNown as a true freshman and even as a true sophomore. He didn’t pick the lock on playing the position until his third year as a starter. There is something about Hundley that gives me hope that he will improve. He doesn’t look lost. He doesn’t have a deer-in-the-headlights look in his eyes. He’s confident. He’s cool. He’s just making errors that (and maybe I’m just hoping) are more a lack of experience than a lack of talent or skill.
The other factor is the offensive line. It’s not good. I really loathe picking on the players because deep down they are just college kids, but the simply fact is, the offensive line is not very good. I don’t want to get into the "are we a young team" debate, but I think it’s fair to say the offensive line lacks experience. They lack cohesion. Their performance against Cal invoked their performance against Oregon State. The Bears used blitzes and stunts and really abused the middle of the line, most of the pressure appeared to come right up the middle. We were not able to run the ball as a result and Hundley often did not have time to throw the football.