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Cal Football 2019 Q&A: The Utah Runnin Utes

Runnin Runnin and Runnin Runnin and Runnin Runnin

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Shane Roberts of answered all things Utes for us!

The injury against Tyler Huntley looks could keep him out of the next game or several games. After he went out in the ASU game, the backups didn’t do well at all. If Drew Lisk or Jason Shelley end up starting Saturday, how do you see that impacting the game?

I’ll be a little surprised if Tyler doesn’t play on Saturday. He even said he plans on playing, and I’d imagine it’s a pain management thing at this point. But, I think we’ll see Jason Shelley, because of his dual-threat ability. Shelley took over when it looked apparent that Lisk wasn’t going to be able to move the chains with his feet when needed, and Shelley is a play maker. He had a couple of good plays last week, but you’re right he didn’t look great. I think with a week of prep, as we saw last year, he’d be fine to step in for a start if needed. Overall, I don’t see it impacting the game a ton, because of the offensive system Utah runs, but the explosiveness in the offense does drop quite a bit.

Cal is running on backups, with a completely patchwork O-line and (likely for Saturday) 3rd string, true freshman QB. What do you think Utah will do on defense to go after that weakness?

I’d imagine it’s a similar game plan as the Arizona State one… that means bringing the heat. Utah smelled blood in the water with ASU’s young offensive front, and inexperienced QB and they attacked for 60 minutes. It was about as impressive of a defensive performance as I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if we’ll see a level like that against Cal, because Utah really wanted to get back at ASU, but I think the game plan may be similar.

How exactly does a team with an old fashioned defensive head coach and average recruiting slowly transform into a Pac-12 title contender? Asking for a friend.

Like I said earlier, Cal looks a lot like Utah from a about three years ago. Cal is following the formula, which is build a defense, but I’d like to see Cal do a bit more up front. Having a great secondary and a good backer is great, but you need to be able to shut down the run and get after the QB. Once the defense is built and reloading each year, then find the gems that people overlook. I like Cal and Coach Wilcox a lot, so keep it up.

Did something happen to Jason Shelley? He won 3 games last year in place of the injured Tyler Huntley. How did Drew Lisk beat him out for the backup role?

I just think it’s a weekly prep thing. I know Andy Ludwig, Utah’s new/old OC, really like Lisk and his grasp of the offense, but I think if given time to prepare Shelley would return to form.

What do you view as Utah’s biggest weakness? Is this something Cal could plausibly take advantage of?

The weakness is likely the offensive line. They’ve been solid all year, but there have been stretches where they do have a stretch of plays that just bury the offense, and Huntley makes a play to bail them out. I do think Cal could take advantage of it, but I’m not sure they can do it for 60 minutes.

Let’s get way ahead of ourselves and talk about a potential Pac-12 Championship matchup. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say you’re playing Oregon tomorrow. How do you feel about Utah’s chances?

I like Utah against Oregon a lot, because Utah’s strength is to stop the run and that’s Oregon. I think Justin Herbert is a tad overrated, and I don’t know if Oregon has the weapons at receiver to beat Utah all game long. It’s a great matchup, and I think Utah’s the better all around team.

What on earth happened against USC? The DBs looked completely lost and were blowing coverage assignments all over the field. Clearly things were better against OSU and ASU, which makes that outing so much more confusing. Was this an aberration or can the secondary self-destruct like that again?

You know, that was definitely an anomaly. The DBs didn’t look that bad for the full game, it was just the big plays they gave up, three of them which all led to scores for USC. The DBs were in position for all those plays, but they either fell down at the last second, or they didn’t make a play on the ball. USC had under 400 total yards on the game, and Utah out stat-ed USC, but those three big scoring plays was something that Utah couldn’t overcome. If Utah plays that game again, they definitely change up the game plan, and I think they win by 17 points.

Which player on offense should Cal fans know about?

Zack Moss, because he’s arguably the best running back in the league. But that’s too easy so I’ll say Bryan Thompson or Brant Kuithe. Thompson is emerging as one of Utah’s best wide receivers and deep threats. He has been developing a great report with Tyler Huntley, and has been Utah’s big play guy, more often than not. Kuithe is one of Utah’s most reliable chain movers from the tight end spot. He does a great job of finding openings in the secondary and giving Huntley a safety valve when things start to break down. But it all starts and ends with Zack Moss and Tyler Huntley.

Which player on defense should Cal fans know about?

Outside of the entire defensive front, Jaylon Johnson and Francis Bernard? Terrell Burgess, the safety for the Utes. He’s been about as steady as it gets for the Utes, and he’s great in both pass coverage and run support. He’s been so solid all year, in his first full year as a starter. With as many familiar names as Utah has on defense with Anae, Fotu, Blackmon, Johnson and Bernard, Burgess has been a stud this year and is constantly one of the top graded safeties in the league.

Who’s one under-the-radar or X-factor player who could swing this game for you?

Devin Lloyd, Utah’s young linebacker. He wasn’t expected to be a starter this season, but when Penn State transfer Manny Bowen hung up the cleats he was forced into that role. He has been really, really solid this season. He has a pick six, and one of the team leaders in tackles. He’s becoming a stud and I can’t wait to see him develop more.

What does Utah need to do to win the game?

Have solid offensive line play, and take care of the ball. I don’t think it’s outlandish to say Utah is the better team than Cal, so Utah needs solid production up front, and not give Cal any short fields or cheap scores.

What does Cal need to do to win the game?

Wreck havoc on defense and hit some big plays. Cal won’t be able to be consistently drive on Utah’s defense, so they’ll need to get some short fields, maybe some defensive scores, or hit a big one on the Utes from time to time.

How do you see the game going?

Cal is like a proto-Utah team from a few years back, it’s pretty frightening to see the similarities. Cal will fight and keep it close for much of the game, but Utah will pull away in the fourth and win by a couple of scores.

Whom do you most want to punch in the face?