- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Utah has some issues. And in times of strife, teams look to their leaders to right the ship. The Utes have a big leader in defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
Given the position he plays and his skill sets, there is only so much Lotulelei can do to help shepherd Utah through this very difficult passage. He can't play quarterback. He can't run block or pass protect -- at least if they want him to stay on defense.
But what he can do is be a calming, albeit dominating presence for the Utah defense. The hope, in turn, is that confidence will translate to the offense as the Utes prepare to face No. 25 BYU. The Cougars rank fourth nationally in sacks, 12th in rush defense and 10th in total defense through the first two weeks -- numbers that don't bode well for a team with quarterback and offensive line issues.
Translation, the defense is going to need to keep Utah in this game. And it starts with the big guy in the middle. Through the first two games, Lotulelei has six tackles (four solo) and a sack. Those are actually pretty good numbers for a defensive tackle who rarely is taking on one offensive lineman at a time. You aren't seeing many teams run straight ahead at Utah. A lot of the success has been getting to the edges.
All it takes is one big play from Utah's very large playmaker to turn the tide. And it doesn't even have to be specifically from him. If he could eat up a few linemen that allows a big sack or a fumble or a negative play, it could spark a Utah team that right now could use a little electricity.
Lotulelei doesn't necessarily need to transform. He just needs to be himself, and hope the rest of the team transforms around him.