Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — There's no doubt the Utah football team has a talented group of receivers.
In seniors DeVonte Christopher, Luke Matthews and Reggie Dunn, and sophomores Kenneth Scott and Dres Anderson, the Utes have a group that caught 105 passes for 1,655 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011.
While they may or may not be best corps of receivers in the Pac-12, there likely isn't a group as close as this bunch.
Talk to any of the receivers and the common theme is the strong bond they share as a group. They call themselves "AFG" — the "Air Force Gang," because of their jet-like speed and the way they can launch an aerial assault on opposing teams through the air.
"It's just something that makes us compete harder because we are close as a receiver group," says Christopher, who has started for most of the past three years. "One thing we don't have a problem with is a team-first mentality."
"We're very thick, with a great bond between each other — just like brothers," says Scott. "We're playing for one another."
"We're like a brotherhood, we've all got each others backs and we're looking out for each other," adds Anderson.
The togetherness in the receiver corps hasn't gone unnoticed by the Ute coaches.
"It's a good group of guys — we have really good chemistry in the room," says receivers coach Aaron Roderick says. "The competition on the field brings out the best in all the guys. They compete really hard against each other on the field and they're really good friends and take care of each other off the field."
Besides the fab five returnees, the Utes have four other receivers who could also see action this year.
Roderick says junior Sean Fitzgerald has "had a really good camp and is playing really well" and that junior Anthony Denham and sophomore Quinton Pedroza are challenging for playing time, along with newcomer Geoff Norwood, a walk-on from Fullerton College.
"It's a heated competition," Roderick says.
So with so much talent oozing out of the Ute receiving corps, isn't there a chance of jealousy amongst the receivers for not getting enough balls thrown their way?
"Receivers typically are guys that want the ball, but what we try to preach here is that winning is more important than (individual stats)," Roderick said. "Winning brings good things to everyone. When we won the Sugar Bowl, we got a whole bunch of guys drafted. When we went 8-5, we had one guy drafted. The biggest stat is wins."
The receivers seem to have gotten the message from their coaches.
"We all know we're not going to get the amount of balls that one receiver would have, but we're great at sharing because we're such a close group and just want the best for the team," said Matthews. "So as long as we're all making plays we're happy."
"That's not a problem," adds Anderson. "Nobody's selfish.. We're willing to share the ball, We want everybody to be great."
The receivers also expect to see more balls flying through the air this year than last when the Utes were primarily a run-oriented team with a limited offensive scheme due to injuries at the quarterback position. Roderick says the Utes plan to open up the offense and want to be balanced 50-50 between the run and pass.
And as much as Roderick loves his "Air Force Gang," he is doing his best to keep them humble.
"They're a good group, but like I remind them every day, they haven't done anything yet," said Roderick. "They've got a lot to prove. We're trying to get everyone to play with some hunger to prove that we're a good offense."
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