Utes expecting spread offense at Michigan


Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah defense hasn't turned its attention to game planning for the Michigan offense yet, but both players and coaches aren't exactly sure what to expect from the Wolverines in the season opener.

New Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez figures to run a spread offense similar to the one he ran at West Virginia, but Rodriguez doesn't have the same personnel at Michigan to run it as effectively. Both potential starting quarterbacks -- Stephen Threet and Nick Sheridan -- are pass-first players with limited mobility, and Rodriguez has to replace Michigan's all-time leading rushing in running back Mike Hart.

So which offense is Utah expecting?

"I think they're going to be a spread football team as much as they can," defensive coordinator Gary Andersen said. "They're obviously very smart coaches, so they're going to do a nice job of getting the ball into their best players hands whether that be a quarterback, a tight end, a wide receiver, a running back. It's Michigan. They're going to have good players. I expect them to have enough players to do what they want to do on offense, but also have the ability to get the ball in their playmakers hands."

If Michigan opts to play the spread for which Rodriguez is known, that might play into the hands of the Utes. Utah runs a similar offense and now that all of the Utes best offensive players are back from injury, it will be run at a level that is considered a minor replica of West Virginia's diverse spread.

"Last year they were a Power-I formation and now we think they'll run a spread similar to us," cornerback Sean Smith said. "We're kinda going against their offense every day with our offense. And last year we faced a couple teams that ran the I-Formation, so we'll play like we do against our offense and go in and watch film and change it from there."

For the defense, solving the mystery of Michigan's offense is puting the daunting nature of playing in the "Big House" on the backburner. Players said they aren't intimidated by the setting despite the fact that most of the players have never played in that raucous of an environment.

"I didn't see myself playing in a stadium that big ever in my career," Smith said. "It holds like over 100,000, so it's crazy. We're not worried at all because we have a couple older players that were on the '04 team that have been spreading knowledge about playing in games in those situations. Don't get me wrong, we're going to be excited, but at the same time, we're not going to be overwhelmed."