For this week’s “Five questions, five answers” post looking at that week’s UW opponent, we turn to an old friend of Seattle sports — David Locke.
Locke hosted a talk show at KJR-AM from 1999-2007 and also handled a variety of other duties in the Seattle area before returning to Salt Lake City, where he hosts a sports talk show and also is the voice of the Utah Jazz (here’s his Twitter page).
As always, these are our questions and Locke’s answers:
Q1, How has the offense changed under new offensive coordinator Norm Chow and how has quarterback Jordan Wynn adapted to it?
A: Utah was the first home of the shotgun spread under Urban Meyer. You might recall it caused Pac-10 teams huge problems when they came into Rice-Eccles stadium. Norm Chow is the move away from the spread that had become a Utah signature. However, the offensive staff was incredibly inexperienced and needed the influx of both Norm Chow and veteran offensive line coach Tim Davis. It is hard to judge the effect on Jordan Wynn (pictured in an AP photo) since his throwing shoulder (on which he had surgery in the off-season) has been such an enormous issue this season.
Q2: What can you tell us about John White, the JC running back who seems to have been a surprise?
A: The Utes were desperate for a running back losing their two ball handlers from last season. John White (who has rushed for 380 yards to rank second in the Pac-12) has been a dream come true. The Southern California JC project looked for the best opportunity to play and he got it. A smaller back who is able to pound inside the tackles and get to the outside with elusiveness. He has been the best offensive player on Utah thus far. His health will be vital to the Utah success they have no back-up of quality.
Q3: How has Utah’s defense been so successful at forcing turnovers — the Utes have forced 12 in three games?
A: The defense plays hard. Sometimes it is that simple. The other thing is they are a pressure defense and they put the offense under stress. Head coach Kyle Whittingham is willing to play man to man on the corners and will bring pressure about 35 percent of the time. A lot of those blitzes are run blitzes.
Q4: And it sounds as if Utah’s defense is strong in the front seven but has some issues in the secondary — the Utes are allowing 263.3 yards per game, more than all but two other Pac-12 teams. Is that an area UW can exploit this week?
A: I am not sure I agree they have issues in the secondary. They may be inexperienced, but thus far they have stepped up. Against Robert Woods at USC they handled him better than anyone and at times they went pure man to man. Utah has put players in the NFL out of the secondary at rate that is equaled by very few college programs. The safeties are big time atheltes who can make plays. The question will be more in tackling on the short passing game then on coverage.
Q5: UW hasn’t played Utah since 1979 and this is Utah’s first Pac-12 home game. How important is this game to Utah and the program?
A: This is the bellwether game for Utah. Is their defense which has been the calling card in an inferior conference going to be its calling card in the Pac-12? If they get in a shoot out do they have the offensive weapons? Is Utah a top 6 program or a bottom 6 program in the Pac-12? All of those questions should have better answers around 7 pm on Saturday night. At this moment, I honestly have no idea the answer to any of them. Finally, the altitude is an issue, if Utah can control the ball watch how Washington defensive players handle the second half of the drive.