Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Brian Johnson, left, Matt Asiata, Brent Casteel and Darrell Mack will be the Utes' leaders on offense.

For the Utah offense in 2008, it's as simple as 3-4-5-6.

Those are the numbers of quarterback Brian Johnson, running back Matt Asiata, receiver Brent Casteel and running back Darrell Mack.

The Utes have plenty of weapons this year, including receivers Bradon Godfrey, David Reed and Freddie Brown and running backs Eddie Wide and Ray Stowers to go along with an experienced offensive line with four returning starters.

But if the Utes are to be successful this year, they need production from Johnson, Asiata, Casteel and Mack, three of whom are coming off injuries that limited or wiped out their 2007 seasons.

Johnson injured his shoulder in the first game against Oregon State, and after missing a couple of games was restricted in his ability to pass downfield and wasn't allowed by the coaches to run the ball like he usually does.

Asiata also went down in the first game with a season-ending broken leg, while Casteel went out in the second game against Air Force with a knee injury. Only Mack stayed healthy all season as he went on to rush for 1,200 yards.

While all but Johnson have missed some time during fall camp for minor injuries, all should be ready to go when the Utes kick off against Michigan Saturday in Ann Arbor.

Although Johnson played most of last season, he was never 100 percent and needed freshman Corbin Louks to replace him when the Utes wanted to run their option, so Johnson wouldn't risk further injuring his shoulder.

When asked a few days ago if Johnson was 100 percent, Ute offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, gushed, "he's a thousand percent."

Johnson has been impressive throughout fall camp.

"He's had an excellent camp," said coach Kyle Whittingham. "He's making good decisions, he's done a great job running the offense and has been exceptionally accurate."

Mack sat out a couple of days with tendinitis in his heel, but has played the past several days and he says he'll be 100 percent for the season opener.

Asiata proclaimed himself "91 or 92 percent" ready a few days ago and he hopes to be ready for Michigan, although Whittingham has declared Mack the starter. The Utes have a lot more depth than last year with Stowers, Wide and freshman Sausan Shakerin each giving different looks from the running back position.

"I think it's one of the deepest positions on the team," said Ludwig. "Obviously Darrell had 1,200 yards rushing last season. Ray Stowers has played some games for us, Eddie Wide is a nice changeup type of player for us and Matt Asiata is still a bit unproven in games. Shak (Shakerin) — that guy is a player. He's going to play in some capacity."

Ludwig is pleased with his receiving corps led by Casteel, who was primed for a big season in '07 before suffering the season-ending knee injury against Air Force.

"This offense has a lot to prove," said Casteel. "We've got our star quarterback back and we've got everyone healthy and it's going to be an interesting thing to watch as the season progresses. This offense can easily put up points in every game, so we've got to go out there and play to our full potential. If we do that it's going to be a very hard time to deal with the Utes.

Besides Casteel (caught 39 passes in each of his first two seasons at the U.), Godfrey (the second-leading receiver with 50 catches, 529 yards), returns along with Brown (caught 20 passes) and Jereme Brooks (caught 15 passes and rushed for 129 yards). Also back is Elijah Wesson who rushed for 116 yards and caught five passes.

Then there's Reed, the JC transfer who has been as impressive as any receiver during fall camp, and John Peel, who has sat out with injuries the past two seasons.

"We've got guys with different skills and abilities and we're going to try to create schemes and plays to put them in position to have success and play fast," said Ludwig.


Aug. 30 ... at Michigan, 1:30 p.m.

Sep. 6 ... UNLV, 6 p.m.

Sep. 13 ... at Utah St., 6 p.m.

Sep. 20 ... at Air Force, 2 p.m.

Sep. 27 ... Weber St., 6 p.m.

Oct. 2 ... Oregon St., 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 ... at Wyoming, noon

Oct. 18 ... Colorado St., noon

Nov. 1 ... at New Mexico, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 6 ... TCU, 6 p.m.

Nov. 15 ... at San Diego St., 6 p.m.

Nov. 22 ... BYU, 4 p.m.

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