USC vs Utah: How the 2016 Ute Offense Matches Up

Sep 10, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Troy Williams (3) warms up before a game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Troy Williams (3) warms up before a game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

USC vs Utah will pit the Trojan defense against another physical attack, though the Utes feature more than a few new faces on offense.

The 3-0 Utah Utes come into their Friday night Pac-12 Conference Home opener having scored at least 20 points in each of their games, including a season-high 34 points on the road in a win last Saturday against the San Jose Spartans.

Led by head coach Kyle Whittingham, Utah opened the year with wins over in-state opponents Southern Utah and BYU during the first two weeks of the season.

The Utes offense is led by junior signal caller Troy Williams, who has completed better than 60 percent of his passes on the year going 54-of-86 for 723 yards, while throwing four touchdowns and four interceptions a piece.

Three of those four interceptions came in a tightly contested Week 2 rivalry match up in which the Utes outlasted BYU by a point, 20-19, and survived a failed two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter to stay perfect on the year.

Williams replaces four-year starter Travis Wilson, a former teammate of USC quarterback Sam Darnold during their high school careers at San Clemente.

Senior receiver Tim Patrick, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound target from San Diego, has emerged as his Williams’s favorite pass catching option so far this year. During the first month of play, Patrick has led the Utes in receptions with 14, receiving yards with 285, yards per reception with 20.4, and touchdown receptions with four.

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Joining Tim Patrick in the Utes receiving corps are a handful of quality options that have battled for catches and playing time so far this season, including Cory Butler-Byrd, Tyrone Smith, Raelon Singleton, and tight ends Evan Moeai and Harrison Handley.

Utah’s wide-open offense, featuring many three- and four-receiver sets, give co-offensive coordinators Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding the ability to spread the ball to each of these weapons. Singleton, Smith, Butler-Byrd, and Moeai have each recorded at least five catches on the year and are all averaging better than nine yards per reception.

Similar to their passing attack, Utah’s ground game allows playing opportunities for several talented running backs.

Junior Troy McCormick, sophomore Armand Shyne, and freshman Zack Moss form a three-pronged attack that has helped carry the Utah offense during the quarterback transition.

McCormick, the Katy, Texas product, leads the team with 178 rushing yards on 29 attempts, good for 6.1 yards per carry. Moss and Shyne have added another 264 rushing yards, with Moss averaging 6.4 yards on 24 carries and Shyne totaling 5.6 yards on 20 carries.

Another talented rusher, senior Joe Williams of Allentown, PA, announced his decision to retire from football early last week as the result of injuries. Williams carried the ball 22 times for 75 yards in Utah’s first two games of the year.

Senior center J.J. Dielman leads a veteran offensive line, which includes tackles Sam Tevi and Garrett Bolles, and fourth-year guards Salesi Uhatefe and Isaac Asiata.

This experienced unit is relied upon to protect the quarterback and create running lanes for the Utah backs. The Utes’ front line has accomplished both those tasks very well so far this season averaging 169 rushing yards per game while conceding five sacks.

As is so often the case in Pac-12 play, the USC defense will load the box and send blitzing linebackers, in order to stop the run and pressure Utah’s inexperienced quarterback.

In order for the Trojans to have the opportunity to put points on the score board this week, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s unit will need to do a much better job winning the field position battle and stopping Utah on third down after allowing Stanford to convert five of their first six third downs last week.

Utah’s Projected 2-Deep on Offense

Left Tackle: Garett Bolles (Jr.) / Jackson Barton (So.)Left Guard: Isaac Asiata (Sr.) / Darrin Paulo (RS Fr.)Center: J.J. Dielman (Sr.) / Lo Falemaka (Jr.)Right Guard: Salesi Uhatafe (Jr.) / Nick Nowakowski (Sr.)Right Tackle: Sam Tevi (Sr.) / Jackson Barton (So.)Tight End: Harrison Handley (Jr) OR Evan Moeai (Sr.)Quarterback: Troy Williams (Jr.) / Tyler Huntley (Fr.)Running Back: Zack Moss (Fr.) / Troy McCormick (Jr.)Wide Receiver: Tim Patrick (Sr.) / Demari Simpkins (Fr.)Wide Receiver: Cory Butler-Byrd (Sr.) / Kyle Fulks (Jr.)Wide Receiver: Raelon Singleton (So.) / Siaosi Wilson (RS Fr.)

USC’s Projected 2-Deep on Defense

Defensive End: Rasheem Green (So.) / Christian Rector (RS Fr.)Nose Tackle: Stevie Tu’ikolovatu (RS Sr.) / Khaliel Rodgers (RS Jr.)Defensive End: Malik Dorton (RS So.) / Josh Fatu (Jr.)Predator: Porter Gustin (So.) / Betiku OR MurphyOutside Linebacker: Uchenna Nwosu (RS So.) / Jabari Ruffin (RS Sr.)*Inside Linebacker: Cameron Smith (So.) / Olajuwon Tucker (Jr.)Inside Linebacker: Michael Hutchings (Sr.) / Quinton Powell (Sr.)Cornerback: Adoree’ Jackson (Jr.) / Lockett OR LangleyCornerback: Iman Marshall (So.) / Harris OR JonesStrong Safety: Leon McQuay (Sr.) OR Chris Hawkins (RS Jr.)Free Safety: Marvell Tell (So.) / Ross OR Lopes