Utah Utes football: Eight receivers are enough
Utah has a deep and talented group of wide receivers
Brendan Sullivan, Deseret News
When it comes to Utah's receiving corps, eight is great.
That's how many wideouts the Utes may utilize this season.
"We've got eight guys we really like with not much difference between No. 1 and No. 8," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "It's a group that, regardless of who is on the field, we think we can put out a receiver that's very talented."
Headlined by Jereme Brooks and David Reed, who combined for 55 catches last season, the current group of receivers are trying to fill the sizable void left by the graduation of Freddie Brown, Bradon Godfrey and Brent Casteel. The trio teamed for 176 receptions during the Utes' 13-0 Sugar Bowl championship campaign.
Brooks and Reed are joined in the quest to fill the gap by Aiona Key, Luke Matthews, John Peel, Shaky Smithson, Elijah Wesson and DeVonte Christopher. Of the latter, only Key and Peel made catches for the Utes last season — make that a catch, as they had one each.
"We have depth in terms of raw material. But we really only have two proven guys who have played a lot for us. That's Jereme and David," said receivers coach Aaron Roderick. "We like the group. We like the raw material, the speed and size. It's a good group of guys."
And there's some experience in the mix. Wesson and Peel saw a lot of action on special teams last season. Key, a former Boise State receiver, missed camp a year ago and didn't join the Utes until three games into the season. He was never able to crack the rotation after that.
The other receivers on the depth chart include Smithson, a promising junior college transfer, as well as redshirt freshmen Matthews and Christopher, a converted quarterback.
"There's a lot of depth and a lot of playmakers. Everybody is good at something different," Brooks said. "So hopefully we can get everybody out there and just let them do what they do best."
Utah's receiving corps, he emphasized, will involve more than just those with extensive experience last season.
"They can all make plays. They can do everything," Brooks said. "It's not just me and David out there."
Utah's travel squad traditionally includes eight receivers. Last season, however, the playing rotation was pretty much limited to five.
That will likely change this time around, especially with the coaching staff determined to raise Utah's play count from about 70 a game last season to 80 this year.
"If we have eight (receivers), we'll use eight. It's no secret that we're an uptempo offense and it's nice to be able to roll fresh bodies in and out of the game," Roderick said. "Most teams stay with the same two or thee corners the whole game. So it's nice to run fresh guys in there and be playing fast the whole four quarters."
Besides depth, Brooks said Utah's receiving group has good speed and playmaking ability.
"When we get the ball in our wideouts' hands, there's no telling what can happen next," he added.
As such, there's an underlying excitement in camp. There's plenty of targets for quarterbacks Jordan Wynn and Terrance Cain.
"I like the group. They're working hard," Roderick said. "I think we have a chance to be good at receiver."
Utah's primary receivers
Aiona Key (6-4, 195)
John Peel (6-1, 185)
David Reed (6-0, 190)
Elijah Wesson (5-11, 185)
Jereme Brooks (5-7, 170)
Shaky Smithson (5-11, 210)
DeVonte Christopher (6-1, 190)
Luke Matthews (6-1, 205)
Utah camp report
Wednesday: The Utes had their second-to-last double day of camp, practicing in the morning at Rice-Eccles Stadium and then at the baseball field in the early evening.
Standouts: Head coach Kyle Whittingham said that quarterback-turned-receiver DeVonte Christopher was the most improved player since spring ball.
Injuries:Defensive end Koa Misi was carted off the field in the afternoon with back spasms.
Next: The Utes will practice this morning at the baseball field.
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