Utah Defensive Preview

L.T. Tuipulotu

Utah has plenty of talent on defense that Arizona will have to contend with. Read on to see what that talent is, who the players to watch are, and more.

Utah will be one of the better defensive teams that Arizona will face all year due in large part to the fact that it is big and experienced up front.

Defensive ends Trevor Reilly and Nate Orchard are both capable of getting after the quarterback and their 255-pound frames hold up well against the run.

Reilly also plays linebacker and has been at that position and on the line in all six games and has started four games at end. Reilly leads Utah with 44 tackles, continuing what he started when he led the Utes in tackles a year ago.

Orchard had one of the best defensive games in the country last week when he had two sacks, forced two fumbles, and finished with five tackles as well. He leads Utah in both tackles for loss with seven and sacks with 3.5

300 pound tackle Tenny Palepoi is one of the few interior linemen in the conference who can stuff the middle or get after the passer, as his four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks suggest. LT Tuipulotu has played in every game this season with five starts. He is a bit quiet in his numbers, but is still solid.

The Utes only start two linebackers, both sophomores, but they can both play. Jared Norris made his name on special teams last year and has now moved into the starting middle linebacker spot. One of the top tacklers on the team, the 230-pound Norris has two sacks, two pass-breakups, and is second on the Utes in tackles with 42.

Jason Whittingham will line up next to Norris, although his status is questionable after an injury against Stanford.

Like Norris, Whittingham is a big linebacker who is solid when run plays are funneled to him, but he isn't the quickest guy in the world.

The Utes start five upperclassmen defensive backs and all are more than capable of creating havoc for opposing quarterbacks.

Junior safety Eric Rowe is one of the best defensive players in the conference and has played in and started 29 games in his career. He is tied for third in the Pac-12 with five pass breakups in addition to being third on the Utes in tackles.

The main issue Rowe has encountered this year is that he is better at his natural free safety position, but has seen most of his time come at free safety.

6-foot-3 senior cornerback Keith McGill might be one of the most underrated players in the conference. Long and angular, McGill has a nose for the ball and it wouldn't be a surprise if Denker stays away from him, as he is second in the conference in passes defended and leads with seven pass breakups.

Davion Orphey is another corner with great size, but he is relatively inexperienced and could be a player Arizona chooses to attack a bit more.

Mike Honeycutt has started the last three games at nickel and while he is a solid player, he does not necessarily have the stats to back it up.

Although there are not a ton of explosive players on this Ute defense, the unit is fundamentally strong and has plenty of talent.

Players to Watch

#9, DE Trevor Reilly: The 6-foot-5, 255-pound pass rusher has been a staple of the Utes' defense during the past couple years. The 25-year old is capable of getting after the passer, yet makes his bones stopping the run.

#8, DE Nate Orchard: Orchard is known as a strong pass-rusher and a strip sack specialist. During the past few years Orchard has been among the nation's leaders in forced fumbles and hasn't slowed down at all this season.

#18, FS Eric Rowe: Rowe is a stud. An honorable mention All Pac-12 performer a year ago, Rowe figures to make the team this season. He's one of the team leaders in tackles and is a ball hawk in the secondary.

Keys to the Game

Avoid the Ute pass rush: Nate Orchard in particular, specializes in sacking the quarterback then taking the ball away. It will be imperative for Denker to move around and be to be aware of the pass rush.

Pick the right time to attack: Although Denker played a superb game, the USC secondary is not great. Utah has capable cornerbacks with size and solid ball skills and will pose some problems.

Run effectively: Arizona needs Carey to get as many yards as possible, but more importantly, it will be important to limit the negative rushing plays. Putting Denker in long passing situations is likely not the key to success.

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