In college football today, up-tempo, fast-break, spread offenses are all the rage. What’s not to love about the Oregon Ducks running and gunning up and down the field scoring 55 points and running 90 plays? It is fun to watch, and clearly very effective with the right personnel. When you fuse Brian Johnson, Dennis Erickson, and the Pac-12 together… you should have a pretty high speed, lower-drag offense, right?
That is the direction the Utes are headed in. Dre’Vian Young, Xavier Shepherd, Delshawn McClellon, and Troy McCormick are all speedsters that can go from zero to 60 as fast as anyone in the conference. But with the current construct of the 2013 Utah roster, the Utes are not ready to effectively run the spread. They are still a few years away. A few of the pieces are in place with guys like Dres Anderson, James Poole, and Lucky Radley, who can all hit a homerun on any given play. Those three players though, are all unproven and are not enough to commit to an up-tempo spread.
When I look at the 2013 Utes I don’t see a team that is anywhere close to prepared to run-and-gun with Oregon, UCLA, ASU, and the other high octane offenses of the Pac. That doesn’t mean they can’t compete with and succeed against some of these premiere offenses, but the direction the Utes are headed in is not the direction of success. Coach Whittingham and Company's haste to become a “Pac-12 offense,” they may be ignoring what the 2013 personell is built to do.
Three of the top five running backs for the Utes weigh over 210 lbs. Three of the top four wide receivers weigh in at 210 lbs or more. The Utes have two very capable tight ends, and that's just at the skill positions. The starting five on the offensive line is an average of 6’3, 320. Their backups? Even bigger. Throw in a signal caller in Travis Wilson, who is beginning to look like an NFL tight end and you've got a team that screams power football. This team screams power football, and yet it doesn't look like that is in the cards for 2013.
The power offense I envision the Utes having wouldn’t be sexy. ESPN probably wouldn't be running stories on it, and it certainly wouldn't jive with what most of the Pac 12 is doing offensively. Trends be damned though, a power offense gives the Utes their best chance at winning football games in 2013. How many times was the defense on the field last year after a three-and-out? Far too many times for Star and the boys to have any chance at success. The power offense I am envision yields long, methodical drives. Drives that would be Coach Sitake’s best friend.
Outside of Dres Anderson, Lucky Radley and James Poole, none of the Utes “speedsters” are ready to contribute at a consistent level in the Pac-12. What Utah does have is a plethora of bruisers ready to abuse and exhaust opposing defenses in a similar manner to what Stanford has done over the past few seasons. The depth at running back would provide the ability to pound the ball without getting tired. Whether York and Oliver are healthy or not, Lucky and Karl Williams provide a powerful 1-2 punch. Lucky may be small in stature, but with a 3 rep max of 595 in the squat rack Radley is pound for pound as powerful as anyone in the Pac-12. At tight end, Jake Murphy is easily one of the best receiving tight ends in the Pac-12 and would excel in the power offense. Westlee Tonga would probably start for half the Pac-12 teams and is a great second option for Travis Wilson. Tonga is also deceptively athletic.
I also believe the power offense would benefit the receiving trio of Scott, Pedroza, and Denham. The strength of these three receivers are their size, strength, and ability to go up and over defensive backs. The offense would be greatly simplified, yet would benefit just about every skilled player on offense. Of course Dres and Poole wouldn’t be obsolete in the offense; they would be a great change of pace players to keep opposing defenses honest.
Another reason I love the power offense is it minimizes the strength of other Pac-12 defenses. There are a handful of NFL bound pass-rushers in the conference, yet only a few play the run well. By cutting down on the spread air attack, the Utes will cut down on defensive standouts chances to change the game. Rather than allowing Anthony Barr to beat Poutasi off the edge and blindside Wilson, you ram the ball down his throat. Karl Williams is as big as most Pac-12 linebackers and quicker than just about all of them as well. With the strong offensive line and depth at running back, it is hard to imagine him not being able to rip off four yards per run. That would be a real formula for success.
Sure, this plug and chug approach would almost be the anti-Pac 12 offense, but if the Utes would commit to it, I believe 2013 could be their most successful year in the conference thus far. Limit mistakes, control the ball, and maintain a fresh defense - this formula equals success for your 2013 Utah Utes.
No need to eliminate the H-Back. No need to run double reverse toss passes in the redzone. This Utah Utes team is not cute. It is mean. Let Karl Williams be the “Human Bowling Ball." Target Jake Murphy 10 times a game. Utilize Anthony Denham and Kenneth Scott in redzone jump ball situations. BJ and Erickson can conjure up magical offenses down the road, but 2013 needs to be the year of hard hats, lunch pails, and work boots.