Utah Utes football: Receiver DeVonte Christopher ready for Arizona reunion with high school teammate
SALT LAKE CITY — When DeVonte Christopher and Juron Criner played on the same team, they racked up some impressive numbers — some real impressive numbers.
As seniors at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas, Nev., the duo headlined an offense that racked up 482 points over 11 games. That fall, in 2007, Christopher passed for 3,265 yards and 44 touchdowns. Criner was a top target with 58 receptions for 1,631 yards and 25 touchdowns.
"They were a lethal combination in high school," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.
Now four years later, Christopher and Criner will be on the same field again. They'll be on opposing sidelines Saturday when Utah and Arizona square off in Tucson — doing so as leading receivers for their respective teams.
Criner tops the Wildcats with 47 receptions for 559 yards and eight touchdowns, while Christopher leads the run-oriented Utes with 24 catches for 354 yards and three scores.
The impending reunion has prompted a little Twitter discussion this week between the long-time friends — mostly about the weather. Things will probably be kept to a minimum, Christopher noted, because both players are so competitive.
"I'm trying to get the win first and foremost," Christopher said. "If he has a better game and we get the win, I'll be content with that. I'd rather have the win, definitely."
Criner and Christopher played a lot of ball together while growing up.
"It was fun. Juron, he'll make you a good quarterback," Christopher recalled. "Some throws you make, he'll go up and get them. So I know Nick Foles down there is glad to have him."
Criner, who was a first-team All-Pac-10 honoree last season, has had a stellar career at Arizona. The senior has 29 career touchdown catches, one shy of equaling the school record.
"Juron is a hard worker," Christopher emphasized. "All his success is definitely credited to his hard work."
The players converse every week or two during the season. They meet up back home in Las Vegas and have visited one another in Tucson and Salt Lake City.
Their lengthy friendship caught Utah linebacker Chaz Walker by surprise.
"I didn't know that," he said. "We're going to have to go to DeVonte and see how (Criner) works."
Whittingham knows. He recruited Criner, who made a trip to Utah before opting to sign with Arizona.
"We would have loved to have Juron Criner," Whittingham said. "He's a talented guy."
The Utes, though, are pleased they have Christopher. The junior, who used a redshirt year as a freshman quarterback, has made a successful transition to wide receiver. He leads the team in several receiving categories despite missing the Pittsburgh and California games with an ankle injury.
Quarterback Jon Hays is especially grateful to have Christopher around.
"Oh yeah. I'm glad. He played quarterback in high school. He's a smart receiver. He'll tell me things he sees out there," Hays said. "I mean, it's great. I couldn't be happier with having him out there."
As for Christopher's successful past with Criner, Hays wasn't aware of it.
"I didn't know that," Hays said while praising Christopher's work ethic. "He's a humble guy. I mean, he just kind of goes about his business."
Utes on the air
Utah (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) at Arizona (2-6, 1-5)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MT
At Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: 700 AM
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