NCF Nation: Eddie Wide

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas keys

December, 22, 2010

You saw my preview and prediction. Now here are three keys for No. 10 Boise State and No. 19 Utah in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas tonight:

Boise State (11-1)

1. Stop the run. The Broncos have uncharacteristically struggled against the run in their last two games, giving up over 200 yards on the ground against Nevada and Utah State. Both those offenses are different from the Utah offense, but the Utes do have two good runners in Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata. The Broncos have switched up their starting linebackers to help shore up the run defense, which has been hurt without Byron Hout (foot). Daron Mackey and Derrell Acrey will split time in the middle. Slowing down the run means …

2. Putting the game on Utah QB Terrance Cain's shoulders. Yes, Cain is capable of managing a game, but you definitely want to see how he responds when the responsibility is completely on him. He has a tendency to be rushed into making mistakes, and that should be a huge part of the Broncos' game plan. Wide could prove to be a good safety valve for Cain should he feel pressured.

3. Take advantage of play-action for big plays. The Broncos are so good at big plays because of Kellen Moore, who is terrific at selling play-action. Utah has given up plenty of big passing plays this season and is going to have to be on top of its game to slow down Titus Young and Austin Pettis. One of the most intriguing matchups in this game is between Pettis (6-foot-3) and Brandon Burton (6-feet). Pettis is the go-to guy in the red zone for the Broncos, the only team in the country to rank in the top 4 in total offense and total defense.

Utah (10-2)

1. Get Cain going. The Utes are going to have to tailor what they do to Cain’s strengths. One of those strengths is his ability to run. As we have seen in the last two games, the Broncos have had a hard time slowing down mobile quarterbacks. Getting him a few more designed runs would certainly help, especially considering Utah does not want to find itself in third-and-long situations. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cain has completed only 55.6 percent of his passes on third down this season. He will be facing a Boise State defense that has held opponents to a pass efficiency rating of 80.6 on third down this season, fourth-best in the nation.

2. Ball control. Utah has the ability to run the ball, and the more the Utes hold the ball, the longer they keep the Boise State offense off the field. Boise State showed against Nevada it could get winded late in games. That would play right into the hands of the Utes. The Utah offensive line is one of the best among the non-AQs and has the capability of slowing down what has been a terrific defensive front.

3. Shaky Smithson. Field position is going to be critical in this game for Utah to have a chance. That is where Smithson comes in. Though teams have been kicking away from him, he still leads the nation in punt returns of 20-plus yards with 10. If the Broncos kick to him, Smithson could be a very important player to watch.

Utah hurts itself, TCU with implosion

November, 15, 2010
Utah is leaving TCU a nice parting gift on its way out of the Mountain West Conference.

Sure, the Utes were big enough to let the Horned Frogs walk all over them and give them the opportunity to win the league title. Great gift.

Not so great gift -- imploding at Notre Dame, with a huge game at San Diego State up next. These back-to-back performances reflect poorly on Utah, and they reflect poorly on TCU. That is a large reason why the Horned Frogs have slipped in the human polls and saw their margin over Boise State in the BCS standings cut in half.

TCU remains ahead at No. 3 in the BCS, but many believe it is only a matter of time before Boise State passes the Horned Frogs -- should both teams remain unbeaten and the Broncos win their remaining games in impressive fashion.

So Utah, in essence, is hurting the best shot the Mountain West has had at getting a non-AQ team into the BCS national championship game.

Of course, it is not Utah’s responsibility to worry about collateral damage from its collapse or the way it is viewed around the country. But there is no way Utah is happy with what has happened.

Just a month ago, coach Kyle Whittingham praised his team, saying it had the most togetherness and chemistry in his 16 years associated with the program. That includes his undefeated team in 2008.

But togetherness has meant nothing on the field in the last two games. Utah has scored a combined 10 points. The last time it was held to single digits in back-to-back-games? Back in 1990, in a 31-7 loss to Fresno State, followed by a 19-7 loss to Hawaii.

Now Utah is in danger of losing three in a row for the first time since Whittingham became coach in 2005. All of a sudden, the season finale against rival BYU is no sure thing, either, not with the way the Cougars are playing. Whittingham has seen his team lose back-to-back games now three times in his six seasons as head coach.

[+] EnlargeJordan Wynn
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJordan Wynn's poor play against Notre Dame has Utah coach Kyle Whittingham considering a change.
After the 28-3 loss to Notre Dame, Whittingham said he had considered benching Jordan Wynn, who was 24-of-39 for 194 yards with an interception. Wynn played poorly against TCU as well, going 16-of-35 for 148 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

After the TCU loss, I asked Whittingham for an evaluation of how Wynn played. He said, “About the same way every other quarterback has done against TCU this year.” But a bad performance against a so-so Notre Dame team has him re-evaluating the position.

“That’s some place that we have to perform,” Whittingham said, according to The Deseret News. “I don’t care what level of football you’re at, that is a key position and you’ve got to have performance and production. And that’s a couple of weeks in a row now we haven’t been able to get as much as we needed to.”

The woes are not all on Wynn. The offensive line, one of the strengths of the team, was outplayed in both losses. That has hurt to get a running game established, too. Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata have a combined 128 yards rushing in the two losses.

It is easy to say now that Utah was vastly overrated because of the competition it played leading up to the TCU game. Everybody figured the back end of the schedule would pose more problems than the front end. But that still is no excuse for the way the Utes played in South Bend against a team that game into the game off losses to Navy and Tulsa.

Whittingham knows his team is reeling. He did not seem worried last week about how his team would respond following the 47-7 loss to TCU. But he clearly should have been, because his team has taken a major hit -- a hit threatening to take TCU down with them.

Welcome to TCU-Utah

November, 6, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY -- It's an unseasonably warm day here for the big showdown between No. 3 TCU and No. 5 Utah. Sunny skies and temperatures around 70 degrees will greet both teams when they kick off with Mountain West Conference and national championship title implications on the line.

There is no denying the magnitude of the game. Utah fans turned out en masse for this morning's "College GameDay." Students camped out overnight, and staff started letting them into the viewing areas at 5:30 a.m. local time.

The national spotlight is no doubt on these two non-AQ teams, and what could happen if the winner stays undefeated. A few keys to watch in the game today:

1. Both teams need to establish their run game. Both rely on two backs. For TCU, it is Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker. For Utah, it is Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata. The wild card in all of this is TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, who has over 400 yards rushing this season. He runs the read-option well, and Utah is going to have to shut that down to have hopes of winning.

2. Special teams. Great matchup between two of the best: TCU's Jeremy Kerley and Utah's Shaky Smithson. You can probably bet that neither is going to be kicked to, but still the potential is there for a big play.

3. Can Utah score on the TCU defense? It's one of the highest scoring offenses in the nation against one of the stingiest defenses. Something has got to give.

A couple of injury items to note: Utah leading WR DeVonte Christopher practiced all week and should be able to play. Christopher sat out last week's game against Colorado State with a knee injury. TCU LG Kyle Dooley (knee) is expected to start. Starting nose tackle Kelly Griffin is out for the season with an ankle injury, and D.J. Yendrey started in his place last week. Starting RT Zach Roth should be available after missing the last two games with an unspecified injury.
Utah co-offensive coordinator Dave Schramm has overseen one of the best-scoring units in the country this season. The offense ranks third in the nation in scoring, averaging 46 points per game, and has gotten great balance from backs Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata, and quarterback Jordan Wynn.

He took a few minutes to answer a few questions about Wynn, the offense, and facing TCU.

[+] EnlargeJordan Wynn
AP Photo/Jim UrquhartQB Jordan Wynn and tailback Matt Asiata are key cogs for Utah offensive coordinator Dave Schramm.
Where is Jordan Wynn today compared to where he was when you played TCU last year?

Dave Schramm: I’d say he’s light years from where he was and he’s light years from where he needs to be by the time he’s a senior. He’s an extremely mature young man, which is what allowed him to do what he did a year ago for us. He takes football very seriously. If there is a negative about Jordan, sometimes you have to reign that in a little bit. He’s an aggressor, he sees things happen on the field and sometimes we have to caution him not to make some of the throws. He has to get the ball to the heroes so he can be a hero.

But now he knows what everybody does on the offense. A year ago, he knew his job. Now he is at a point knowing the offense, if a wideout doesn’t know where to line up, he can help them. He can help if the back is misaligned. He has an innate ability to lead, and people follow him.

So what to expect when he is a senior, then?

DS: By the time he’s a senior, we can grab popcorn and a Coke and watch the offense and not have to call a play. He’s already to a point where the play is about to get called and he knows what’s about to get called. That’s how we game plan. Everything we do is designed for situations. He understands how our game plan is broken down. He knows as the game is going down, OK we crossed the 50, we’re getting close to the red zone, expect this blitz and I know we’re going to go to this. He’s able right now to be a step ahead so his mind is already thinking. There’s no surprise. A year ago, he would wait to see the play call and wait to see where we need to go. It allows us to go much faster, to have a lot faster tempo than we had a year ago. Where he’ll be two years from now is much faster, especially in terms of putting pressure on defenses.

How do you explain the unselfishness on this team, especially with your running backs Wide and Asiata?

DS: It’s coach (Kyle) Whittingham. What he preaches to this team is: We’re a family. Without a doubt not every single guy in the locker room goes out to picnics on the weekends, but when you come on the field, you have to understand we as coaches are going to put you in the best situations. Eddie and Matt understand in our scheme, we don’t call any different plays for Matt that we would call for Eddie. When we were going into the first game it was like we’re a one-back team, which one is going to start? We left it up to them. Matt’s a captain, and Eddie’s a senior. They both said, ‘Let the other guy start.’ That’s the kind of guys they are.

Is this the best chemistry on the team since you got here in 2005?

DS: No question. It’s just grown that way because he’s steering the ship and that’s the way he wants it. Even before they get to the locker room it starts in recruiting. Character is a big issue with the guys. We try to make sure we’re not bringing guys in here that aren’t going to understand that this isn’t about you as an individual. This is about the Utes as a team.

What is the strength of the TCU defense?

DS: Their strength is all 11. Without question this is the best defensive football team we’ve played to this point. They give you problems scheme wise, but they are very talented. The guys that make things go are the safeties, because they are the unblocked guys and they make the tackles. You can get a hat on a hat in the front seven, but it’s the unblocked safety that gets you the whole time.

What is the key when going against a 4-2-5 defense?

DS: The key to the defense is the players. It’s not so much their scheme. Gary (Patterson) and their staff have done a great job recruiting to that system. They have big safeties and they have two linebackers that are very physical and very fast. Any coach worth his salt can design plays on the board, we can get this guy blocked, but when those Xs and Os are on the field, when that guy’s a lot better it’s a lot harder to block them.

They have two great defensive ends in Wayne Daniels and Stansly Maponga. How do you slow them down?

DS: We’ve got to be able to run the football. That’s what’s going to slow those guys down, bottom line. A year ago, we’re down 21 points real fast and now we have to throw the ball to catch up. If you’re going to do that with those guys, it’s like throwing raw meat in a shark tank. So they’re rushing the passer and that’s what we have to avoid, stay out of third and long, protect the football and mix up our run and pass, because that’s what will slow them down.

Q&A with Utah RB Eddie Wide

October, 29, 2010
I had a chance to catch up with Utah running back Eddie Wide this week about the way the Utah offense is playing, and how he splits reps with Matt Asiata. The two have combined for 802 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. Here is a little of what he had to say:

How has the offense come together?

Eddie Wide: We’re clicking as a unit as the scoreboard is showing. Jordan (Wynn) is doing a great job and everyone is just feeding off that.

How would you describe the unselfishness of this team?

Wide: Even in fall camp, we realized there were no individuals on this team. Everyone is willing to do what they can to help out in any way. Me and Matt with us sharing reps, it’s a good thing because we get to stay fresh. After a while, if you’re taking a beating, your body is going to get worn down, even with (Sausan Shakerin) and the other running backs, they’re doing a great job helping us out too. You saw it with Jordan and (Terrence) Cain -- they both help each other out a lot. It’s really nice to have a lot of team players on this team.

How does a team develop a good team chemistry?

Wide: We have a lot of passion and determination to be the best, so it’s helping out having everyone on the same page.

What are you expecting out of Air Force?

Wide: Air Force always comes to play. They’re a great team. They’re very disciplined. They rarely make mistakes. We know they’re going to come out and give 100 percent.

Any looking ahead to TCU?

Wide: We’re just worried about Air Force right now. It’s going to be a dogfight out there, and preparing for them, that’s what we have our mind on right now.

Do you guys feel you are an under-the-radar team?

Wide: I don’t think we really care about that right now. We go out there and try and win. We’re showing that we can win and we’re doing a great job right now. We just hope to continue to be successful.

MWC, Eddie Wide

Non-AQ predictions: Week 6

October, 7, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 5 were pretty bad. If Army had not blown a lead, if North Texas had not had an extra point blocked, if only … Sigh. The tally came out to 5-5, an embarrassing day to be sure. With a 33-21 overall record, I am ready for Week 6. I think.

On to the picks!

No. 10 Utah 31, Iowa State 28. This will be the biggest test of the season for the Utes, who played three of the worst teams in college football after struggling to beat Pittsburgh. They should be prepared for Austen Arnaud after getting a bye week. Utah has a powerful run game with Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata, and the Cyclones have one of the worst run defenses in the country. That will make the difference.

Northern Illinois 34, Temple 30. Both teams are evenly matched going into what many believe to be the MAC championship game preview. But the edge goes to the Huskies because they have been able to run the ball more consistently with Chad Spann and Chandler Harnish.

New Mexico State 21, New Mexico 17. Bowl of Disenchantment, Take 1. Where do we begin? There are issues everywhere for both teams, which rank near the bottom of nearly every NCAA statistical category. They can’t score, but they can’t stop anyone from scoring, either. Both also have issues at quarterback, with injuries to their starters. Neither team knows who will start. Good luck to anyone attempting to watch. The Aggies get the nod because they are at home. Not because they are good.

FIU 28, Western Kentucky 10. FIU has been able to hang with its nonconference opponents, at least in the first two games anyway. The Golden Panthers need to find some consistency from their offense, and they should be able to against Western Kentucky. But the key could be how the FIU defense handles RB Bobby Rainey, one of the top-ranked rushers in the country.

San Diego State 30, BYU 17. I have wanted to believe in a BYU turnaround, hence all my upset picks the last few weeks. But the Cougars have let me down, big time. They have given nobody any reason to believe they can turn things around in a matter of a week. The Aztecs have a balanced offense, and a great runner in Ronnie Hillman. The defense is vastly improved, too, and already has nine sacks. BYU, meanwhile, has struggled everywhere. Not sure more involvement from Bronco Mendenhall is the answer.

Southern Miss 35, East Carolina 20. The Golden Eagles are on a roll, having won four straight, including a blowout win over Marshall. The Pirates, meanwhile, suffered a big blow when they lost defensive end Justin Dixon for the season. That leaves them very thin along the line. If last week is any indication, expect Southern Miss to run. A lot. The Golden Eagles had 205 yards on the ground against Marshall. East Carolina gave up 263 yards rushing in a loss to North Carolina.

Navy 17, Wake Forest 13. The Midshipmen are facing a must-win game on the road after their loss to Air Force last week. They have struggled to get their triple option going, partly because quarterback Ricky Dobbs has struggled through injuries, and partly because defenses are keying in on him. Dobbs says the injuries are not a problem headed into the Wake Forest game. Maybe he will be rejuvenated going against a defense that is giving up 182 yards a game on the ground.

Mississippi State 30, Houston 20. Houston won this game last season behind Case Keenum. But Keenum is out and coach Kevin Sumlin has yet to announce whether Terrance Broadway or David Piland will start the game. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have been impressive so far this season behind Chris Relf and Tyler Russell, and Vick Ballard in the run game.

UPSET SPECIAL: Hawaii 48, Fresno State 41. The Warriors are hot on offense right now behind Bryant Moniz, who threw for 532 yards last week against Louisiana Tech. They have won three of the last four games in Fresno. The Bulldogs are so banged up, injuries start to take a toll in this one despite a good game from Ryan Colburn.

Cincinnati 24, Miami (Ohio) 20. This one is going to be closer than expected. The RedHawks are much improved on offense and defense, while the Bearcats are struggling for any momentum. Good matchup here between Zach Collaros and Zac Dysert in the “Battle for the Victory Bell.”

A closer look at Utah-Pitt

September, 1, 2010
Thursday night's showdown between Pittsburgh and Utah features two teams with conference title and BCS aspirations, plus some good ol' bragging rights between the Big East and the Mountain West conferences.

For a closer look at this game, national blogger Andrea Adelson and Big East blogger Brian Bennett break down each team's strengths and weaknesses:


Strengths: The offense is a definite strength with eight starters returning, including quarterback Jordan Wynn. The sophomore started the final five games of last season and had a breakout performance in the Poinsettia Bowl against California, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdown passes. He is now completely comfortable in the spread system Utah runs, and has been given the ability to call audibles this season as well.

First-team All-Mountain West Conference running back Eddie Wide returns and so does Matt Asiata -- the two combined for -- 1,399 yards last season and 16 touchdowns. Watch for wide receiver Jereme Brooks to have a breakout season.

Weaknesses: Utah lost its top four tacklers from 2009 and has to replace seven starters on defense, including all three at linebacker and three in the secondary. The projected starter at rover, JJ Williams, is out with a foot injury, leaving Matt Martinez and Chaz Walker to start alongside converted quarterback Chad Manis. Tackle Koa Misi is also gone, along with his 4.5 sacks. But Utah does have depth on the defensive line, and leading sackmaster Sealver Siliga is back and expected to anchor the front.


Strengths: Start with the running game, as Dion Lewis returns after his phenomenal, 1,799-yard freshman season. When the Panthers aren't handing off to Lewis or terrific backup tailback Ray Graham, they're likely throwing the ball deep to Jon Baldwin, a 6-foot-5 athletic freak who is a potential NFL first-rounder next spring.

On defense, Pitt has two of the best defensive ends anywhere in seniors Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus. The Panthers don't need to blitz much because of the pressure their defensive front generates.

Weaknesses: Though strong on the edges, Pitt's offensive line is breaking in three new starters on the offensive line, including a former walk-on at center (Alex Karabin) and a thoroughly untested right guard (Greg Gaskins). That could mean less running room for Lewis and less time in the pocket for new starting quarterback Tino Sunseri. Coaches have confidence in Sunseri, but he's still playing his first important snaps in a tough road environment.

The Panthers also showed some vulnerability in pass coverage last year, and they will be lining up with two new starting cornerbacks.

No. 19: Eddie Wide, RB, Utah

June, 9, 2010
No. 19: Eddie Wide, RB, Utah

2009 numbers: Led the Utes with 203 carries for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first season with significant playing time.

Making the case for Wide: Wide took advantage of a ill-timed injury to starter Matt Asiata and rattled off a 1,000-yard season in just nine games as a starter. He had seven 100-yard rushing games, including six in a row from late September to early November. Wide did struggle against some of the better teams on the schedule, which is why he’s ranked so low, but he did show the ability to change a game when he was on. His role will be different in 2010 with Asiata back from injury and Sausan Shakerin emerging this spring. Utah has thrived in a two-back system before. Asiata and Darrell Mack split carries in 2008 and helped the Utes to an undefeated season. And that was after Mack had been the premier back the year before. Wide will be in the same situation.
Spring football did little to help Utah decipher its running back situation, but it’s a nice situation to be in.

The Utes have three competent running backs -- Matt Asiata, Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin -- and all three will have a chance to compete for carries during fall camp.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham would have liked to get the competition sorted out this spring, but with Asiata still recovering from a knee injury that he suffered last season, and Wide was held out at times to give other backs carries, the Utah staff didn’t get a chance to hold an actual competition.

However, the spring did allow Shakerin to show some of his attributes and put himself firmly in the mix for the starting job.

“We feel very good about our stable of backs,” Whittingham said during the Mountain West coaches teleconference this week. “We’ll get Matt added with Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin, who had a tremendous spring. He’s a guy that we’ve been excited about since he got on campus. This is his year that we feel like he can be a major contributor.

“But the bottom line is we’re going to take this competition into the fall. Eddie Wide was a 1,000-yard rusher last year, Matt is a proven commodity and with Shak’s potential, what we’re going to do is give them all opportunities.”

Whittingham said that while there are other running backs on the roster, one of the aforementioned players would be the go-to guy this fall. And Whittingham isn’t ruling out the possibility of using a committee. All three bring different characteristics to the field and could help the Utes in different situations. Asiata is a bruising back who can run between the tackles while Wide likes to bounce to the outside and beat defenders with his speed. Shakerin is the tallest of the three and does well catching passes out of the backfield.

“It will be a three-horse race,” Whittingham said. “There are other backs behind them, but they’ll be the three guys getting the bulk of the reps. If they all do something and do a great job then they’ll all get reps. If someone separates himself from the pack, then we’ll divvy it out accordingly. But now we’re just going into fall camp giving all three guys the work and seeing how things shake out.”
Utah running back Matt Asiata has been invited to the NFL scouting combine next weekend, but he’s not going.

Asiata is still awaiting word from the NCAA regarding a sixth season of eligibility and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is confident that the school could hear something as early as Monday.

The NCAA does allow players who are waiting for a waiver to participate in the combine with no penalty as long as the waiver has not yet been approved.

“In order for them not to miss out on an opportunity to go to the combine, the NCAA does allow that they can attend,” Whittingham said. “If they waited and missed the combine and then they didn’t get their judgment then they’ve lost out on all opportunities.”

But even if Utah wasn’t expecting to hear about Asiata’s status early next week, Whittingham said Asiata wouldn’t have been able to participate anyway. Asiata is still recovering from knee surgery and the most he could have done at the combine is have height, weight measured and complete the Wonderlic test.

Whittingham also said Asiata would miss Utah's spring drills to help ensure that he was 100 percent by fall camp.

“He’ll be able to do a few things and be out there, but no contact or anything like that,” Whittingham said.

Whittingham wasn’t ready to speculate on the future of the running back depth and probably wouldn’t be ready to do so until fall camp. If Asiata’s NCAA request is denied then the Utes proceed with Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin as their top backs. If Asiata gets his sixth year, the three will either share time or one will move to another position.
One of the great parts of the spring is watching the various position battles unfold and reading the quotes from the coaches criticizing the poor play of the competitors (talking to you, Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild).

There are a lot of teams with questions and below I look at some of the bigger ones as we head into spring practices.

1. BYU quarterback: Three players will be vying for the starting quarterback role left vacant by Max Hall this spring. Riley Nelson is the incumbent since he was the backup last year, but he’ll be challenged by true freshman Jake Heaps and James Lark, who is returning from his mission.

2. Louisiana Tech quarterback: Ross Jenkins has been the starting quarterback for the past season and a half and has done a decent job, but with a new head coach, new coordinator and new system, the starting quarterback role is going to go to the player who wings the ball around Texas Tech-style.

3. Central Michigan quarterback: With Dan LeFevour gone and a new head coach, Central Michigan is basically entering a new era. Ryan Radcliff and Derek Rifenbury will be the top two competitors for the starting position, but don’t count out Kyle Smith and A.J. Westendorp.

4. Colorado State running back: The Rams know they have a competent running game, but picking the player to spearhead that running game will be a challenge. Both John Mosure and Leonard Mason return as seniors, but the Rams also have Lou Greenwood, Raymond Carter (a transfer from UCLA), power back Chris Nwoke (a redshirt freshman in 2010), and true freshman Tony Drake, who was one of the top all-purpose backs in the country.

5. TCU defensive end: Jerry Hughes is gone and Braylon Broughton is next in line on the depth chart, but don’t rule out any of the other athletes on the roster. The Horned Frogs signed a lot of running backs and they won’t all stay at that position. Remember, Hughes was a running back before turning into an All-America defensive end.

6. Utah running back: It looked like Eddie Wide was going to be the premier back, but with Matt Asiata applying for a sixth season things could get dicey in the backfield. Add Sausan Shakerin to the mix and the Utes have a trio of guys who could start in the backfield for many teams. Which one will start for the Utes, though, is up for competition.

7. San Diego State running back: The running game has been downright awful for the Aztecs the past few years, so coach Brady Hoke has brought in a stable of running backs to find the right one. SDSU could be auditioning as many as nine running backs this year in an effort to find one who will get the Aztec running game out of the cellar.

8. North Texas receivers: The Mean Green struggled last year, but return their top six receivers and add Oklahoma transfer Tyler Stradford, who was the offensive scout team player of the year last year while sitting out, and junior college transfer Christopher Bynes. But finding the go-to receiver will be a chore this spring and into fall camp.

9. East Carolina running back: Giavanni Ruffin returns, but the rest of the running back depth is a little sketchy to replace 1,000-yard rusher Dominique Lindsay. Senior Norman Whitley, senior Jonathan Williams and junior Brandon Jackson are the other running backs on the rosters, but both Whitley and Williams have had trouble with suspensions and Jackson was inconsistent last year.

10. Southern Miss O-line: The Golden Eagles must replace four offensive linemen from last year’s squad, which is no easy task. Guys who will be competing for spots include senior R.J. Brown, redshirt freshman Ed Preston, senior Trevor Newsom and junior Ben Schoenberger as well as early enrollees Jamar Holmes and Jason Weaver and four other freshmen signed in this year’s class.

Non-AQ recruiting needs

January, 26, 2010
National signing day is just about a week away and there are several non-AQ teams that will be looking for the next great player to help their team to a conference championship or even a BCS bowl. The non-AQs are notorious for finding diamonds in the rough, but most teams are just looking to plug holes for positions depleted by graduation and the NFL Draft. Here’s a quick look at the non-AQ’s top areas of concern for this year’s class:


Defensive line: The Cougars took some big hits on the defensive line this year with the graduation of star end Jan Jorgensen and nose tackle Russell Tialavea. There’s some depth there for the Cougars, but it didn’t contribute much this season.

Linebackers: BYU graduates all of its starting linebackers from 2009 and the Cougars will have three seniors starting in that unit next year. The linebacking corps was a great strength for BYU in 2009 and building it back up will be the highest priority.

Running back: Star running back Harvey Unga is returning for his senior year and the Cougars will have two talented juniors in JJ Di Luigi and Bryan Kariya, but beyond that there isn’t much help. The Cougars have gotten used to rotating a few guys in the backfield, so adding some young talent will allow that trend to continue.


Wide receiver: The Horned Frogs had a lot of success spreading the ball around to several different receivers this past season, but enter 2010 with six seniors on the wide receiver depth chart, including playmaker Jeremy Kerley.

Secondary: The secondary loses both of its corners this season and will have three seniors starting next year. The secondary has been one of the few weak spots of the defense in the past, so shoring that up will be a major priority.


Offensive line: The O-line loses senior center Carl Bennett, but will have three senior starters in 2010 and many of the players on the depth will be seniors as well. With as potent as the Houston offense is, finding players to step in right away is a must.

Quarterback: Star Case Keenum is a senior and backup Cotton Turner is a junior. It would be good to get a couple young quarterbacks in to learn the system and have the benefit of learning from Keenum, who has essentially become the offensive coordinator on the field.

Athletes: In Houston’s offense, guys with great hands will be rewarded. The Cougars need athletes at both receiver and in the secondary and that should be a big focus in this class.


Wide receiver: All of Fresno State’s starting receivers are gone, including leader Seyi Ajirotutu. Ajirotutu was a dynamic player and finding someone to replace him, especially with a couple young quarterbacks waiting in the wings, should be the top priority in this class.

Secondary: The Bulldogs lose four seniors from the secondary and will lose two more in 2010. The secondary actually was the strength of an otherwise poor defense and the Bulldogs will want to continue to build on that momentum.

Running back: With Lonyae Miller lost to graduation and Ryan Mathews leaving early for the draft, Fresno State was left scrambling for some depth at the running back position. Running back has long been the strongest position for the Bulldogs and finding a back to complement sophomore Robbie Rouse would be key.


Linebackers: The linebacking corps was the strength of the Aztecs last season and with defensive coordinator Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 scheme, it probably will be the strength for some time. SDSU graduated three linebackers and will have two seniors on the depth chart next year.

Hybrid: The SDSU 3-3-5 defense uses a Warrior and Aztec position as its hybrids and finding the right athletes to play those spots will be key. Long used what he had last year, but with a full recruiting year under his belt, he should be able to find players that are specifically tailored to fit that hybrid role.


Running back: With Shawnbrey McNeal opting to leave early for the draft, the Mustangs will need a couple running backs to keep that a viable position on the team. McNeal was coach June Jones’ first 1,000-yard rusher and his presence took a lot of the pressure of the young quarterbacks.

Athletes: All-everything player Emmanuel Sanders is gone and the Mustangs don’t really have anyone to fill his role immediately. The run-and-shoot offense is successful because of playmakers and finding some of those players in this class will help SMU continue its winning ways.


Running back: The Golden Eagles picked up running back Kendrick Hardy in the last recruiting class, but he didn’t do enough to unseat the guys who were already on the two-deep. Coach Larry Fedora has gotten a big-name kid each season he’s been with Southern Miss, and with his top two running backs lost to graduation, that could be where he strikes next.

Offensive line: Southern Miss lost four starters off the offensive line and could lose three more after 2010. There are some competent guys waiting in the wings, but they need to start building that depth now.


Offensive line: The Knights lose two offensive linemen this year and will lose three next year, so adding more players to that unit in this class has become a priority. The O-line struggled mightily last season with 2.54 sacks allowed and the rushing offense ranked 82nd in the country.

Defensive line: Similar to the offensive line, the Knights defensive line also will need some fresh faces. The defensive line was a major strength in 2009 and should be again in 2010. After that, the Knights will need the youth to start contributing.

Playmakers: The UCF offense was better this year than it was a year ago, but it still wasn’t good enough to be a consistent threat in Conference USA. The Knights need to find some offensive playmakers to really push this team to the forefront of the conference again.


Quarterback: Sophomore Jordan Wynn is the future of Utah, but he doesn’t have a lot of depth behind him. Terrance Cain will be a senior in 2010, so the Utes will need a couple more bodies to provide a push for Wynn and some much-needed depth.

Secondary: The Utes lose five seniors off the secondary two-deep and while there is some young talent there, the secondary has consistently been the Utes best unit and much of that has been because of the ability to develop young players.

Running back: This position has consistently been riddled with injuries for the Utes and so stockpiling a few running backs, especially with both Eddie Wide and Shaky Smithson entering their final seasons, wouldn’t be a bad idea.


Athlete: Boise State lost one senior starter this year, so the Broncos needs aren’t as great as most other teams around the FBS. However, this squad can never have too many athletes. The secondary could use a little help, as could the receiving corps, which is riddled with young players.

Quarterback: Kellen Moore will be a junior next season and backup Michael Coughlin will be a senior. With Joe Southwick still a freshman, the need for a new quarterback isn’t pressing, but it might be good to get someone in to learn the ropes and give Southwick a challenge in a couple years.


Quarterback: The quarterback position hasn’t been the strong point of Marshall’s offense in quite some time, so finding a guy who can be a difference maker is key. Both Brian Anderson and Press Taylor will be seniors in 2010, so finding a young quarterback to challenge in this class would be the right move.

Wide receiver: Marshall’s leading receiver for most of last season was its now graduated tight end. While there is a lot of freshman talent on the two-deep, Antavious Willson was the only one that really made a lasting impression. If new coach Doc Holliday could get some high-level receiving talent, it would make his quarterbacks look better than they are.

Defensive line: The Herd lost three seniors this season and will have four on the depth in 2010. Marshall’s defense was one of the best in conference play and the reason why it was able to play in and win a bowl game.

Three keys: Utah in Poinsettia Bowl

December, 23, 2009
Utah (9-3)

1. Run the ball: Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin have done a great job this season filling in for starter Matt Asiata, who suffered a season-ending injury, but the duo is going to have a tough time putting up strong numbers against a Cal defense that allows just 117.08 rushing yards per game. The Bears have allowed more than 200 yards just once this season, but did allow 188 and 177 rushing yards, respectively, in their final two games. The Utah running game struggled against TCU and BYU, the two best rushing teams it faced this season.

2. Protect Wynn: True freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn has shown the ability to make plays when given enough time to do so, and that will be the key against a Cal front that will attempt to disrupt the Utes' passing game and make the Utes one-dimensional. Cal averages more than two sacks per game, and Wynn already has thrown three interceptions in just four starts.

3. Don’t discount the run: It would be easy to get lax on the Cal running game with star Jahvid Best out, but replacement Shane Vereen has been as equally tough to stop. In the past three games, Vereen has rushed for 444 yards and four touchdowns. The Utah rushing defense allows 141.33 yards per game, but has allowed four teams to rush for more than 200 yards this season.

TCU dominates all-MWC team

December, 1, 2009
The Mountain West Conference released its all-conference football team and TCU won all but one of the major honors.

Junior quarterback Andy Dalton won offensive player of the year, defensive end Jerry Hughes won defensive player of the year, Jeremy Kerley was named the special teams player of the year and Gary Patterson was named the coach of the year.

Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels was named the league’s freshman of the year.

Overall, TCU led the conference with nine players selected to the first team. Utah was second with six selections, including running back Eddie Wide, who replaced Matt Asiata midseason. BYU had four players named.

UNLV senior receiver Ryan Wolfe, BYU senior tight end Dennis Pitta and BYU senior defensive end Jan Jorgensen were named first-team honorees for the third time in their respective careers.

Posted by’s Graham Watson

Eddie Wide didn’t think much about starting running back Matt Asiata's knee buckling after scoring a 24-yard touchdown in the first quarter against Louisville two weeks ago.

“At first I thought it was just a little minor injury, nothing too serious,” Wide said.

But the injury was serious enough to keep Asiata on the sidelines as Wide finished the game with 19 carries for 129 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career.

But the moment was bittersweet when Wide learned his good friend Asiata had torn his ACL and was done for the season and possibly his career.

“After he got the results that he was hurt, then was it was like, that sucks,” Wide said. “The experience I’ve had in past games gotten me ready for this role, but I wasn’t looking forward to it as far as for it to happen this way. Matt’s a great friend of mine and it just sucks that he went down.”

Wide will be the team’s feature running back beginning this weekend against Colorado State, a role the junior wanted, but thought he wouldn’t get until after Asiata graduated this season.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said this was supposed to be Asiata’s year. After dealing with injuries the first year after he transferred from Snow College and then splitting time with Darrell Mack last season, Asiata was finally going to have a season where he could show NFL scouts his worth.

But even in fall camp Asiata started suffering minor injuries that would keep him out of practices and parts of games. So in Asiata’s stead, Wide gained experience and became comfortable with the offense. He and freshman Sausan Shakerin gave the Utah offense an element of quickness that was different from Asiata’s bruising running style.

“Quickness is his primary asset,” Whittingham said of Wide. “Quick feet, excellent change in direction. He’s a capable runner inside. He’s not a big guy, he’s 190 pounds, but he’ll slam it in there. He’s not afraid to run in between the tackles and actually does a pretty good job of that. But he’s not the power back that Matt Asiata is. He’s more of a guy that relies on speed and quickness.”

While Wide spent the bye week becoming accustomed to getting all the first-team reps, he said it still felt odd because of the way he inherited the position. Wide said he knows he has a job to do, but that it doesn’t make it any easier not having Asiata around.

“We talk every once in awhile,” Wide said. “He hasn’t been around the facility. He can’t do that right now, you know? It’s kind of tough for him. But he’s been telling me to keep it going, and keep the team on the right track. He’s trying to give everybody the motivation that they need.”

Whittingham said the offense won’t change much with Wide in the backfield. Some of the running schemes might change to allow Wide to get in the open field, a place he said he’s more comfortable running. While Wide said he’s not afraid to run up between the tackles, all of Utah’s running backs -- Wide, Shakerin and converted wide receiver Shaky Smithson -- like to get outside the tackles and make defenders miss.

“We’ll gear the run game to what Eddie does best,” Whittingham said. “But we feel he’s a pretty good all-around runner, so there’s really no need to have any dramatic changes to the run game.”

Wide said he spent the bye week working on his past protection to help stifle Colorado State’s pass rush. He also spent the week proving to his teammates that he can be a competent full-time replacement for Asiata. While he feels bad for his friend, he doesn’t want to disrespect him by not continuing to show the effort he showed daily.

“I’m just going to do my job and make sure everyone knows I’m going to take care of my responsibility and step up,” Wide said.