I can’t wait. I was looking forward to camp just to get back in gear and play again. So I’m feeling good about this season. —Utah defensive back Tevin Carter
SALT LAKE CITY — There’s safety, make that safeties, in numbers at the University of Utah.
“It’s more depth than we’ve ever had at this position,” said safeties coach Morgan Scalley, who tempered his statement by noting that they’re still a ways from meeting their potential but acknowledging that the athleticism is there.
Seniors Brian Blechen and Tevin Carter headline a group that includes junior Charles Henderson, sophomore receiver-turned-safety Brian Allen, as well as true freshmen Andre Godfrey, Monte Seabrook and Marcus Williams.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham notes that the position has undergone a complete makeover from what it was last spring. At safety, Whittingham said the Utes are a whole lot more athletic, faster and skilled.
So much so, in fact, that the coaching staff is comfortable moving former Freshman All-American Eric Rowe to cornerback for his senior season.
“Right now he’s a full-time corner and he’s not spending any time at safety,” Whittingham said. “We’re completely immersing him in the corner spot and until it’s proven differently — that we don’t have that luxury — we’re going to continue with it.”
Whittingham praised Rowe’s coverage instincts and explained that the 6-foot-1, 201-pound defensive back is “a natural” at cornerback.
“That’s why we moved him over there. It was kind of like the move with Keith McGill (last year). He’s probably better-suited to be a corner. For a safety, he’s very good and has got average size,” Whittingham said. “But for a corner, he’s got great size. In this day and age of football with the big receiver being so prevalent, you need those big, long corners to be able to match up against them.”
Carter, who is also 6 foot 1, is projected to replace Rowe as Utah’s starting free safety.
“He’s running with the ones right now,” Whittingham acknowledged. “It’s him and Blechen at the safety position.”
Carter, a former receiver who spent a redshirt year with California before playing defense for two seasons at Los Angeles Southwest College, enrolled at Utah in January. He missed the 2013 season while completing academic work and has one year of eligibility.
“I can’t wait. I was looking forward to camp just to get back in gear and play again,” Carter said. “So I’m feeling good about this season.”
Slowed by ankle surgery upon his arrival in Salt Lake City, Carter acknowledged that it took awhile to get the soreness out. He’s now moving side-to-side and jumping well.
The competition associated with Utah’s depth at safety is something he appreciates.
“I wouldn’t want a job handed to me,” Carter said. “So I love it.”
Scalley notes that everyone in the program enters with a different situation. He explained that Whittingham’s whole deal with the Utah program is “you’ll become us, we won’t become you.”
It’s a philosophy, Scalley said, that Carter has fully bought into.
“He just wants to be great. He understands he’s got one year to do it and so he’s not an excuse-giver. He doesn’t make excuses for anything,” Scalley continued. “Even though it may be hard and new to him, he’s a guy that’s been willing to do whatever it takes to make the team better.”
Scalley said the Utes are fired up to have Carter, who was a two-time all-conference honoree in junior college and a former track star, in the program. He likes the improvement shown, thus far, in camp.
The potential pairing of Carter and Blechen, who missed all of 2013 with an injury, would give Utah a formidable duo at safety.
“They’re both tough. They’re both smart football players,” Scalley said. “So we’ve just got to continue coaching them up.”
Size and speed are attributes that Carter sees with such a union.
“He’s so smart. Brian’s smart. He can see something happen before it happens,” Carter said. “So being out there with him and learning from him right now during camp is helping me a lot.”
Same goes, Carter added, with Rowe being out there at corner.
Meanwhile, in camp, there’s an active competition taking place for playing time at safety. Henderson and Allen are drawing praise from coaches, as are the trio of high school additions — Godfrey (Miramar, Florida), Seabrook (Newberry, Florida) and Williams (Corona, California).
“I love it. We have competition. They’re willing to learn and also we’re learning from them,” Carter said. “They bring a whole different thing to the table. We have some real good talent out there this year.”
Whittingham acknowledged that the young kids are looking really good. Scalley agreed, pointing out that they arrived in a big way.
“For those guys to show up like we’d anticipated is great. Now football knowledge, it’s got to continue to come,” said Scalley, who mentioned things like schemes and the ability to disguise and mess around with the minds of quarterbacks. “But the desire is there and the athleticism is there. So as long as you’ve got guys that love the game, who want to be good and are willing to put in the time — sacrifice their free time — you’re in a good situation.”