Utes Look To Win Individual Battles, Create Pressure On Chugs
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Utah is challenging West Virginia’s manhood.
Not directly, so to speak, but it’s plainly obvious what the Utes want to do on defense, and it’s something the Mountaineers are welcoming: Man coverage.
Not the spotty, on occasion man-to-man, cover zero one sees once in a great while in the Big 12. But the continual usage of either one or zero high safeties in an attempt to create added pass rushers and disrupt the rhythm of an offense via pressure as opposed to blanket coverage.
“It’s kinda crazy, they run a lot of man,” WVU receivers coach Tyron Carrier said. “They do a great job of hiding when they are in cover two and cover three. You really can’t tell until the ball is snapped at the last minute. They do a great job of disguising things and they are very aggressive.”
That means blitzes from multiple angles and fronts out of coordinator Morgan Scalley’s 4-2-5 base look. The Utes utilize the corners in pressure, and can mix and match pressure packages with hybrid positions like their “mac” and “rover” linebackers – which are really just more of a middle ‘backer/run stopper and a weakside/pass defender, respectively – and the nickel back that adds to the typical strong and free safeties with a pair of corners.
It translates in West Virginia needing to win those one-on-one battles outside against Casey Hughes (6-0, 185 lbs.) and Julian Blackmon (6-1, 187 lbs.), who man the left and right sides. Both have solid size, and Blackmon was named to the Pac-12 second team as a sophomore in his first season as a starter. Nickel back Javelin Guidry is a hard-hitting true freshman who shares time with senior Boobie Hobbs, while strong safety Chase Hansen (6-3, 220 lbs.) reminds one of Kyzir White with his size and wingspan.
“The great thing about it is it’s not like they are going to be in man once or twice like most teams we play,” Carrier said. “They are going to be in it quite a bit. We will see how my guys respond to it. I prayed for it (as a player). Hopefully they are praying for it, too.”
The reason is twofold. First, it provides the maximum opportunity to showcase individual skill sets and an ability to compete heads up against an opponent. Second, it takes away the safety help over the top, or at least halves it in going from cover two to a single high free safety look, allowing for more space on deeper routes. Utah will dare the Mountaineers to take advantage, and West Virginia must respond.
“We are probably going to have to establish the running game some, but I think we can attack their secondary as well,” David Sills said. “That was a good reason why we had to get the timing down with Chugs. We have done a good job at that as a receiving corps, just working with Chugs and everything. We feel comfortable with our game plan going into Utah.”
As does Carrier. Despite Utah’s allowing just 24 points and 214 passing yards per game, teams have managed big play strikes at times. The key is doing that on a consistent enough basis, as despite a handful of injuries – the secondary as just one stater who has played in all 12 games in Blackmon – the Utes rank third in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency and scoring defense.
“To me, it’s a great thing for my guys,” Carrier said. “We really haven’t seen man many times except in practice. Now they have an opportunity to showcase what they can do against man coverage and cover one. People have said before, ‘What happens if a guy steps in this guy’s face, or this guy’s face?’ You’ll find out. It’s all manhood. They know what to do to break down man coverage. It’s that dog in that fight. Who is going to win?”