SALT LAKE CITY — If Brock Osweiler had chosen to wander down a different life path, he would be playing basketball against BYU in the Marriott Center this winter instead of facing Utah's football team at Rice-Eccles Stadium in the fall.
Had Osweiler opted to pursue the hoops scholarship offer he had from Gonzaga instead of becoming the starting quarterback at Arizona State, the Ute defensive staff and players wouldn't have nearly as big of a problem on their hands as they do this week.
Preparing for and going against a QB who happens to be both a big talent and a BIG talent — as in 6-foot-8 tall BIG — is a sizable challenge for the Utes.
"He's a freak," said Utah linebacker Matt Martinez, who stands a comparatively eensie-weensie 6 feet tall. "He's big. He's huge."
Size isn't Osweiler's only advantage. The gunslinger has helped ASU go undefeated four games into the season — and 2-0 in Pac-12 play — with solid skills and leadership in the Sun Devils' backfield.
Osweiler is ranked 26th in the nation (fourth in Pac-12) in total offense, having accounted for 283.6 yards per outing. He is also 38th overall in pass efficiency (146.3).
Just another top-notch quarterback for the Utes to take on in this new conference of theirs.
"He makes good decisions," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
Osweiler usually doesn't panic in the pocket, either. He also effectively uses swing passes as an offensive weapon and a form of protection against surging defenses.
For obvious reasons, there is nobody in football who has a better view of what's going on downfield.
"He sees the field very well. Obviously, at 6-foot-8 he sees over everybody," Whittingham said. "He stands back there in the pocket. He's got very good pocket presence."
Though ASU doesn't use Osweiler as a rushing threat, Martinez credited him for being mobile — something that might be surprising to some considering his height.
"He throws the ball well. He's athletic," Martinez said. "It's going to be a great opportunity to go against a good quarterback like he is."
Martinez added with a chuckle, "I don't know if I've seen basketball players as big as he is."
The Utes aren't expecting to get many pass deflections, but they are planning on putting the pressure from multiple angles on ASU's front line and Osweiler.
"He's the biggest quarterback I've ever played," said Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who's not exactly small at 6-3, 325 pounds.
"I think he has an advantage with being able to see everything that's going on in the backfield, seeing the defense and all that," Lotulelei continued. "But I think we'll be ready."
Of course, Osweiler isn't the only dangerous player the Pac-12 powerhouse and South Division favorites have in their arsenal. Whittingham looks at ASU's roster and sees multiple guys who are "exceptionally fast and athletic," including multi-purpose threat Jamal Miles, receiver Aaron Pflugrad, running back Cameron Marshall and the versatile Kyle Middlebrooks.
"They've got a lot of weapons," Whittingham said. "Their offensive line is playing efficiently and they spread you out. They get their ball to their playmakers in open space, and that's a dangerous combination."
But it's The BMOC who makes things click for ASU.
Whittingham is impressed how Osweiler has developed a potent sidearm release and how the QB gets the ball through open windows. His size led to some technique tweaking.
"Obviously it's an advantage because he can see over the top of a rush a little bit better and you know he's a pretty good athlete, so I mean he can see things obviously in the pocket probably that other people can't," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said of Osweiler, who broke a commitment to Gonzaga to play for ASU.
"A guy that tall also has some issues," Erickson added. "We've shortened his release. Sometimes when you're that tall your release becomes a little bit longer. But he's pretty strong back there also. As far as seeing things, probably is the biggest advantage that he has."
The junior is expecting to see the Utes use a variety of schemes in this important Pac-12 showdown.
"They play a little bit of everything and really mix things up," Osweiler said Monday about the Utes' defense. "They are going to play quarters, halves, cover eight, cover two, man and they are very assignment-sound."
Utes on the air
Arizona State (4-1, 2-0)
at Utah (2-2, 0-2)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
TV: ROOT Radio: 700 AM
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