Utah football: Offensive line knows it needs improvement
Utah's offensive line didn't need to see any film Monday to understand it did a poor job against Oregon's defense, knowing it had 10 three-and-outs was a stat that told the linemen all they need to know.
The passing game didn't work, the running game didn't work and the Utes managed just 15 first downs. All those mediocre efforts came against a defense that wasn't so great. Now on Saturday, they face Louisville, which ranks 10th nationally, giving up just 223.5 yards.
As much focus as Terrance Cain might receive as the quarterback for being the leader of the offense, getting the offense going is on the linemen, center Zane Taylor said. The last thing he or any of the other guys want along the line is a repeat performance of the Oregon game.
"Everything starts with the offensive line, so all that goes on our shoulders," he said. "If we're not protecting the quarterback, he isn't going to get passes off; the passing game comes down to us even more than the running game. We have to continue to work hard, focus and prepare for this next team and get that running game going so we don't have any more of those three and outs."
The offensive line is supposed to be one of the Utes' strengths this season with Taylor, senior Zane Beadles and junior Caleb Schlauderaff considered All-Conference-caliber players.
Sophomore Tony Bergstrom is a promising young player at right tackle, while the right guard spot is split between freshman Tevita Stevens and junior Walter Watts .
Schlauderaff has been slowed by a knee injury but played against Oregon. However, Taylor insisted the line wasn't missing talent or continuity, it just needs to play better.
"We know what we are about as an offense, we just need to let everyone else know," he said. "We haven't shown our potential yet and that is frustrating, and we need to show that against Louisville this weekend. It's hard going three and out and to keep that from happening I need to put that on my shoulders and get some knockoff and get the run game going."
Running back Matt Asiata , who played against Oregon despite a shoulder injury, had just 15 carries for 54 yards. While coach Kyle Whittingham said the running backs need to do a better job of breaking tackles, Bergstrom like Taylor said its on the O-line to give Asiata bigger lanes.
Getting that run game going against Louisville is the line's priority, he said.
"We have to get more knockoff," he said. "Oregon was good. They loaded the box and anchored in there on first down and made it hard for us to pass because they knew we couldn't run. We have to get more push off with the run game."
Who is that Guy
The Utes will see a familiar foe on the sideline Saturday as former Utah State coach Brent Guy now serves as Louisville's defensive coordinator.
"He is an excellent defensive football coach," Whittingham said. "He has done a lot of good things in a lot of places. He has a very sound defense and a great background in defensive football."
Guy was fired as Utah State's coach after going 8-38 over four seasons. The Utes defeated his USU football team 58-10 last season.
Back on the field
Defensive back Kamaron Yancy , a junior college transfer from Pierce College, has returned to practice this week after missing the first three games with a foot injury.
His presence brings welcome depth to an area suddenly thin in bodies. Another JC transfer, Conroy Black , is redshirting this season while freshman Chris Washington is out for the season with an injury. Damilyn Tanner , who was a regular contributor in 2008, left the team before the 2009 season and another player, Maxwell Lacy , didn't qualify academically.
All those issues leave the Utes with freshman Ryan Lacy , who was converted to corner from receiver in fall camp and junior Lamar Chapman as the backups.
"We're low on numbers but we'll be all right," Whittingham said. "[Yancy] has had some injury issues, we're hoping he can stay on the field so we can start to get him involved."