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Utah Utes football: DeVonte Christopher blossoming after switch to WR

Published: Monday, Aug. 29 2011 7:31 p.m. MDT

Utah's DeVonte Christopher runs while Pitt's Antwuan Reed tries to pull him down to set up Utah's second touchdown as the University of Utah plays Pittsburgh in the opening game of their college football season Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — DeVonte Christopher has really caught on to this receiver thing. The junior, who came to Utah as a quarterback, is flourishing after making the position switch following a redshirt season in 2008.

Christopher enters the Utes' first Pac-12 campaign as the team's top returning receiver.

After making two catches in limited action as a freshman, Christopher stepped up last season as a sophomore and led Utah in receiving yards (660), receiving yards per game (55.0) and touchdown receptions (six).

The success has Christopher's sights set even higher. He's determined to be one the top receivers in the Pac-12.

"That's my goal going into this year — to become one of the best," Christopher said. "I think as any competitor that is the attitude you have to take."

Christopher, who was the first Nevada high school quarterback to throw for more than 30 touchdown passes in a season, has no regrets about moving to receiver at Utah. He's all about moving forward — as a go-to guy.

It's a role Utah coach Kyle Whittingham can envision for Christopher.

"We'll see what happens but there's no reason why he can't," Whittingham said. "Because as far as just sheer ability, he's got it."

Christopher's highlights in 2010 included three 100-yard receiving games. He had 155 against Pittsburgh, 124 at Iowa State and 111 in a conference clash with Colorado State.

Utah won all three contests. Christopher scored a touchdown in each of the victories, as well as in wins over New Mexico, Wyoming and BYU.

Now comes the encore.

"We need him to have a big year for us," Whittingham said as the Utes prepared for Thursday's season-opener against Montana State. "He's an integral part of the offense."

Quarterback Jordan Wynn agrees.

"Hopefully he has a big year. Part of that has to do with him, the rest has to do with me. If he has a big year, it means that I'm most likely having a big year. So hopefully we're both having big years," Wynn said.

"He's a good wideout. He's smart. Since he played QB, he sees coverages at the same time I do. He can kind of understand where the ball's going to go pre-snap and what reads are going to be made. So he's a great weapon."

Christopher acknowledges that his background as a quarterback is beneficial.

The best thing, he noted, is being knowledgeable about defenses and recognizing coverages.

"I see a lot on the outside," Christopher said. "That's definitely the biggest thing. That's the most helpful. I see the game as a quarterback, too, out there."

Being able to do so, however, can have a downside. He can readily recognize situations where the ball will likely go to someone else. On those plays, Christopher must continue to run his routes, occupy coverage and help get a teammate open.

"It has its good and its bad, but definitely more positives than negatives," Christopher said. "I look at it as a big positive in my game."

Although Christopher wants to be Utah's "go-to guy," he fully appreciates the team concept of throwing the ball to whoever is open.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound receiver plans to stand tall.

"As a competitor, if you want to be looked to as the go-to guy — when times get hard and it's that third down — that's the time where I want the ball," Christopher said. "I want to thrive in those type of situations. That's basically my mentality when I approach the game."

Utes season-opener

Montana State at Utah

Thursday, 6 p.m.

TV: KJZZ

Radio: 700 AM

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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