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Utah spring practice preview: Receivers and tight ends

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 1:25 p.m. MDT

Utah's Jake Murphy celebrates a touchdown right before the half as Utah and Arizona play Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, at Rice Eccles Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Utah's Jake Murphy celebrates a touchdown right before the half as Utah and Arizona play Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, at Rice Eccles Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Editor's note: This is part three of a six-part series by Brandon Gurney previewing the Utah Utes football team for spring practice. In this piece, Gurney focuses on the receivers and tight ends.

SALT LAKE CITY — Receiver looks to be a position with a lot of potential as the Utah Utes set to begin their spring practice session. The team should have potent options on the outside, but it’s the tight end position that may hold the most promise with the return of Jake Murphy (6-4, 252.)

Tight end is a position that has received more focus and production at Utah in recent years, and it’s primarily due to Murphy.

“Jake Murphy is someone who has legitimate NFL potential and Utah normally doesn’t have tight ends like that,” observed Utezone.com managing editor Dan Sorensen. “Murphy has proven to be a great playmaker, and he should only improve during his senior year and become a real focus with what Dennis Erickson wants to do offensively.”

CORVALLIS, OR - OCTOBER 20: Wide receiver Luke Matthews #11 of the Utah Utes catches a pass in front of cornerback Jordan Poyer #14 of the Oregon State Beavers in the first quarter of the game on October 20, 2012 at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) (Steve Dykes, Getty Images) CORVALLIS, OR - OCTOBER 20: Wide receiver Luke Matthews #11 of the Utah Utes catches a pass in front of cornerback Jordan Poyer #14 of the Oregon State Beavers in the first quarter of the game on October 20, 2012 at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) (Steve Dykes, Getty Images)

Murphy isn’t alone at the position and will combine with Westlee Tonga (6-5, 250) and junior college transfer Greg Reese (6-6, 246) among others to establish themselves as not only the top options at tight end, but for the offensive as a whole.

“There are other guys like Sean Fitzgerald who will compete for spots, but I think it’s going to primarily come down to Murphy, Tonga and Reese as the top three guys,” Sorensen said. “Murphy and Tonga obviously both showed what they could do last season, and coaches are really high on Reese and his potential as a blocker and as a receiver.”

At wideout, the focus is likely to surround Kenneth Scott (6-3, 202), who really came on strong toward the end of last season. He’s likely to lead the way at one wideout position along with Dres Anderson (6-1, 205.)

“Scott has a great size and speed combination that showed a lot of his potential last year, but should be able to really establish himself as the primary guy this spring,” Sorensen said. “Dres Anderson will try and establish himself as a possession receiver along with being a guy who can beat a defense deep this spring, and together with Scott should pose a very good first two options at wideout this season.”

Utah Utes wide receiver Dres Anderson (6) celebrates his touchdown as Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Preston Hadley (7) walks away as the University of Utah and BYU play football Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes wide receiver Dres Anderson (6) celebrates his touchdown as Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Preston Hadley (7) walks away as the University of Utah and BYU play football Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Other options at wide receiver include Anthony Denham (6-4, 222), who provides a big and physical presence along with Quinton Pedroza (6-1, 205), speedster Delshawn McClellan (5-9, 165) and Brian Allen (6-3, 197) among others.

Overall it’s a group that holds a lot of potential according to Sorensen and should reach new heights under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson.

“It’s hard not to like this group on paper,” he said. “They lost some productive guys like Luke Mathews and Kendrick Moeai, but I think this group has the potential to improve the play overall from last season, and there’s also some exciting options coming in this fall that could only add to the overall production. There‘s a really good mix of big, possession-type guys, speedsters and guys like Scott who can be both, so I think this group could prove to be very productive this season.”

Editor's note: This was part three of a six-part series by Brandon Gurney previewing the Utah Utes football team for spring practice. In part four, Gurney will take a closer look at the defensive line.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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