October 21, 2009

JD breaks down the play of the Utah offensive line

JD,



Is it possible for you to provide O-Line grades each week? There is a lot of concern about the right side of the O-line and why various players are playing. In addition, do you have any comment about that? Stevens seems to be the biggest question mark. I'm of the opinion that if Watts or Tuimaga were better the coaches would play them. Right now RG seems to be a black hole with no one really stepping up. Also, is Brenner possibly better than Bergstrom and should be playing?



Thanks



-Michael




To answer your first question, I can provide the offensive line grades each week, though right now it is a little late in the season to go through each player week-by-week. Here are the overall season grades as well as the grades from the last game,

      Utah Offensive Line Grades - Season      
PlayerPlaysWonLostGradeCutsPancakes
Zane Beadles3823334987%135
Caleb Schlauderaff3602936781%167
Zane Taylor4223527083%208
Tevita Stevens3122407277%102
Tony Bergstrom4263398780%124
Walter Watts1731284574%42
Sam Brenner392910074%00
Tyler Williams110100%00
Daniel Bukarau110100%00


        Utah Offensive Line Grades - UNLV       
PlayerPlaysWonLostGradeCutsPancakes
Zane Beadles5344983%11
Caleb Schlauderaff55451082%12
Zane Taylor5345885%30
Tevita Stevens53411277%10
Tony Bergstrom56461082%12
Daniel Bukarau110100%00

Now, as to why certain players are playing certain positions, I do have a comment about that - the best players are playing. Kyle Whittingham has stated many times that the best 11 players will play, and the best five on the offensive line. Offensive line coach Blake Miller[db] has also said as much.

Stevens may not jump out while watching the game on TV or from the stands, but he has been praised for his solid, consistent play. While Stevens may not have won the center job from Taylor, he did enough to convince the coaches he was one of the best five players, or at least tied with Watts for that fifth spot. The coaching staff is high on [db]Derek Tuimauga, but he is not far enough along in his development as an offensive lineman to be considered for that spot. Tuimauga has been getting practice time everywhere along the line except center, and he could very well be in the mix in 2010 once he matures more as a player.

Stevens has stepped up and played well once Watts aggravated his knee injury and Stevens played all the snaps. In those two games, Stevens is grading out at 80% and has matched the number of cuts he had the previous four games with five. While Stevens' play has not been spectacular, he has been far from a liability, and is solid in both pass protection and run blocking.

Brenner has not been playing better than Bergstrom. Bergstrom takes some unnecessary heat because he is not Zane Beadles. It is easier to see a tackle lose his play, and while Bergstrom leads the line in number of plays lost (87), he also leads the team in snaps played. Bergstrom grades out on the season at 80%, which is above average (think of it like school grades, 90%+ an A, 80%+ a B, 70%+ a C, and lower than that we just won't talk about) especially for a first-year starter at tackle. Bergstrom did have a rough stretch of games on the road against San Jose State and Oregon where he graded out below 70%, but has played very well his last three games. Brenner, on the other hand, played a decent second half against Louisville filling in for Beadles, but he did nothing to warrant playing time over Bergstrom. Put another way, if we take what Brenner did in his 39 snaps with help against Louisville and project that out over 426 snaps (same number as Bergstrom), Brenner would have lost 109 out of those 426 plays.



I hope that answered you question.



-JD



Got a question you want answered in the Mailbag? Send an e-mail to JD at jdurrant@utezone.com.



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